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Posted in back to school, counseling, emotion regulation, parenting

Morning Meltdowns and Afternoon Attitudes

I truly hope your family’s back to school experience is consisting of melodious mornings and amicable afternoons! You know the ones with your kids enjoying breakfast together and playing outside after they have finished their homework. If your school year is starting off in a wonderful way, treasure it! However, for those of you who are already exhausted with school mornings and afternoons, this post is for you!

MORNING MELTDOWNS

Mornings can be hard for all of us. The waking up, getting it all ready, getting out of the door and where we need to be on time, and oh yeah, tending to the various emotions of our kids as well as our own. Mornings can especially exhausting when you have a child who is experiencing anxiety or anger about the school day. This can often trigger our own emotions leaving us feeling frustrated and hopeless as the day is only beginning. Here are some ideas to reduce and help you through morning meltdowns.

Structure Your Morning

If you, the parent, are overwhelmed, angry, anxious and stressed, these emotional states can certainly affect and almost be absorbed by your child. Prep the night before to reduce stress and rushing in the morning. Get up early enough to get yourself together and settled before meeting all of your kids’ needs. If you have a minute, do something to relieve your own anxiety. Exercise, devotional, and meditation are some morning stress reducers for me. Do your best to establish a set routine to create consistency and predictability, which can reduce stress for everyone.

Keep It Encouraging

Talk about things to look forward to in the day. If talking about the day causes too much anxiety for your child, talk about what you are looking forward to doing after school or on the weekend. Connect over getting ready or eating breakfast. There is nothing wrong with having an incentive if a child is really struggling with the back to school transition. In my family, we listen to uplifting music in the car, say a prayer for the day, talk about friends at school, set an incentive if necessary, and say, “You’re going to have a great day.”  

Make Space for Meltdowns

Mornings may be hard for your child. If they are, there is hope that they will get smoother with time and making some changes suggested in the above two sections. I would recommend not expecting a miraculous change when you wake up each morning though. If mornings are hard, anticipate it, know what you need to do to stay calm, and connect with your child through the meltdown. In The Whole-Brain Child (I highly recommend this book, by the way!) by Siegel and Bryson, they recommend the strategy of connect and redirect. Authors state, “When a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs.” Connect with your child’s emotion and provide empathy first, then work on some logical ways to calm down.

AFTERNOON ATTITUDES

Afternoons can be unpredictable. You wonder what mood your child will be in after school and what their day was like.  You can get a great report from the teacher or their conduct sheet, and suddenly, when at home your child goes from being Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. What happened to the child who kept it together at school and is now talking back and crying? Talk about confusing! Here are some things to know.

After-School Restraint Collapse

Don’t take it personally or even disrespectfully if your child needs sometime to unwind afterschool and process their day.  Most of the time your kids work really hard to keep it together during the day so they don’t get in trouble with teachers or jeopardize friendships. When they are with you, all bets are off. You are safe. You aren’t going anywhere. I often refer to parents as the emotional punching bag, because you are a safe target. They can let those feelings out they have been bottling up all day. This is called after-school restraint collapse.

 It may come across as yelling or crying, but rather than shutting them down, try the connect and redirect approach with them. What you may learn is that they thought they did well on a test but didn’t, one of their friends stopped talking to them for an unknown reason, or something embarrassing happened in front of their whole class. Connect with their feelings and listen, then once the emotion has subsided redirect with some ideas to help them process feelings without using you as an emotional punching bag in the future. Expect that this after-school restraint collapse may be more prominent when the school year is starting.

Listen and Reflect in the Afternoon

Instead of bombarding your child with questions ask a specific question or tell them how glad you are to see them. Let them breathe. Often times we are well intentioned wanting to hear all about our child’s day but to them all of the questions feel pressure filled and like they are on trial. I know I wouldn’t like it if someone fired questions at me when I was trying to decompress from my workday. Once they are more relaxed and have time to unwind they may be more likely to talk about their day. If you have time to play with them, do something fun, or complete a task together as children may open up more in side-by-side tasks than conversation.

Journeying with you,

Andrea

For more reading on the after-school restraint collapse, check out this article:

https://www.mother.ly/child/if-your-child-falls-apart-after-school-theres-a-good-reason-why

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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Posted in back to school, counseling, motherhood, parenting

I Can’t Even Handle It

“I can’t even handle it!”  That’s a phrase my five year old has come to use to communicate when she has intense feelings of being “too” overwhelmed, mad, helpless, stuck, anxious, or sad.  I think this sentiment captures what we all feel as summer draws to a close and the school year ramps up.  Whether juggling the many demands of being a teacher, a student, a parent guiding their children through the difficulties of school, or a homeschool parent, there are moments that just feel like too much, like we can’t even handle it.  

Some seasons are unavoidably busier than others.  The question is, How do we help guide our children, our students, and ourselves through these moments that are simply too much?  While we may not be able to tame all the busy, we can set ourselves up for success in the midst of the busy by adding one essential thing to our calendar: margin.

Our culture has trained us to believe that the successful life is the busy life.  We work long hours, fill the holes with extracurriculars, and don’t sleep nearly enough.  The net result is that we are worn out, exhausted physically, spiritually and emotionally.  We are left with an inner deficit that prevents us from being our best selves for those we love.   Incorporating margin into our lives creates space for us to rest, nap, play, enjoy those activities that refresh us, or simply do nothing at all.  Building margin into our lives is certainly counter to modern culture.  Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for creating and using margin for my family’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. 

1. Plan it. 

We don’t leave our doctor’s appointments or important meetings to chance.  Why would we leave times to take care of our inner lives to chance?  Take the time to add margin to your calendar.  Literally.  Go mark it on your calendar.  If you really want to be able to resist the temptation and allure of constant busyness, set time aside for rest.  I have personally decided that the time of margin that works best for my family is to commit to one day each week where we do nothing work related.  We may go hiking, kayaking, do yard work, etc.  But we intentionally stay away from filling this time with our vocational tasks. 

2. Fill it. 

Now that you’ve set aside time for margin, what will you do with it?  Fill it with life giving activities.  This may mean you take a nap, go on a hike, watch a movie with your family, or sit and drink a good cup of coffee.  In his book, Emotionally Healthy Leadership, Peter Scazzero asks the question, What do you currently do that nurtures your Spirit and fills you with delight?  Whatever your answer, fill your margin with that.  This means my margin time will likely look different from yours, and that’s okay.  The point of margin is to refill myself physically, spiritually and emotionally. 

3. Guard it. 

Once you have built in margin and made plans for putting it to the best use, you need to protect it.  You must be willing to protect the time you set aside from the false emergencies of life.  You may disappoint people or struggle with the fear of missing out, but once you’ve experienced the fruit of your rest, setting appropriate boundaries will become easier. 

At the end of the day, margin in your life is intended to serve you and make your life more fulfilling.  Friend, we are not machines created for production.  We are human beings created for relationship.  Resolve with me to create space for you to rest and be refreshed this school year, lest we find that we can’t even handle it. 

Resolving to rest,

Tiffany Raley

Posted in back to school, counseling, motherhood, parenting

Connecting in the Chaos

August has arrived and the movement and the change in the air is palpable as the school year is about to start. The school year has been a cycle that has driven my family’s life since my husband and I were in school ourselves. Our family has always worked with students in one capacity or another, and it feels natural that our children are now entering the rhythm of the school year along with us. We are all gearing up, in one capacity or another, to start this new season, and it has brought out a lot of different thoughts and emotions for all of us.

When you ask a child how they feel about school starting, you tend to get a lot of the same responses:

“Excited!”
“Nervous.”
“Sad that summer is over.”
“Looking forward to seeing my friends.”

Parents tend to give similar answers as well that range from thrilled to have their kids back in to school to anxious about how their children will do this school year. No matter what you and your children are feeling about this coming school year, there is one thing that is certain: everyone is walking into this school year with some degree of uncertainty about what the year is going to look like. This known uncertainty makes connecting as a family all the more important as everyone seeks stability in the midst of change.

So how do we create that connection?

Be Literal About It

Some of the best connection happens in actual connection. Virginia Satir, a pioneering therapist in family therapy, said “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” If you want to feel more connected with your children, try increasing the number of meaningful touches that you exchange during the day. This can include hugs, cuddles, kisses, a comforting hand on a shoulder, or even a pat on the back. Depending on both you and the age of your child, these touches will look different, but they have the potential to make a big difference in your relationship with your kids.

Be Face to Face

Another important way to connect to your kids is to be eye-to-eye with them. This means getting down on their level and engaging with them in a screen-free environment. Being completely present and engaged with our children provides a space for them to feel truly seen and heard. Aim for at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each child each day. If you don’t know what to do during that time, try reading a book together, playing a game, engaging in a new activity, or doing something physical together like going on a walk, or just ask your child what they would like to do.

Ask Open-Ended, Child-Specific Questions

When I was growing up, I dreaded hearing the generic after-school question: “So, how was your day?” As well-meaning as this question is, it can difficult for a child of any age to try to summarize the entire emotional and relational landscape of their day into a single answer. Instead, ask specific questions about what you are really curious about:

“Did you talk to your friend John today?”
“How did that math test go?”
“What was the funniest thing someone said to you today?”
“How did you show kindness to someone else today?”

These kinds of questions are often much easier for your children answer and can provide an opening for a conversation with your child.

Practice Saying No

Our culture places a high value on being busy, and being stressed out is often seen as a badge of honor. There are a lot of opportunities you can say yes to during the school year and so, so many of them are good. You might be able to sign your kids up for sports, music lessons, or your older kids may even get a job or take college prep courses. You might consider coaching a team, leading a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, or volunteer to be a classroom parent. While all of these can be good opportunities, there is absolutely such a thing as too much of a good thing. When your family’s schedule becomes so busy that you lose time to connect, both you and your children are losing something far too valuable and irreplaceable to not decide to out of something for the school year. It doesn’t take much for a family schedule to become overwhelming, so as more opportunities arise, take stock of your family’s values and resources. Then, practice saying no to the things that don’t make the top of the list.

In a season where everyone in your family is likely to become busier, disconnection and distance are likely to creep into your family relationships. Make sure that you are making and taking the time to create connections that will foster positive relationships with the people you love most.

In the joy and in the chaos,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in motherhood, parenting

Edible Lessons

Recently, I had the privilege of being able to bake with my almost three year old son. As toddlers usually do, he had been resistant to doing anything that required him to stay still for very long. However, as we worked it struck me how many life lessons I was able to teach him in that brief interaction.

WORKING TOGETHER IS BETTER.

Teamwork and cooperation are ideas that kids struggle to grasp at early ages. Actually, many adults fail to grasp this concept ever in their life. The idea that anyone can contribute and the process can be more enjoyable working together, is something I want him to take to heart. Whether he is paired with others during a class assignment or later in a work project, I want to begin to instill the pleasure of working with others. 

IT IS OK TO GET MESSY.

He looked at me in horror as goops of dough plopped onto his footie pajamas. He saw in my laughter and shrug, that it was ok. There was no gasp or even insistence that we clean up immediately. I showed him my hands covered with the same goop and reminded him that getting messy is just part of the process.

MAKING MISTAKES HAPPEN, BUT WE DO NOT HAVE TO REACT WITH ANGER.

He spilled, and sloshed while he helped. Mom spilled and dropped things. He continually looked at Mom for a reaction. He is learning how to respond to situations based on how it is modeled for him. Sometimes I would get frustrated with myself for my clumsiness, a constant battle, but choosing to laugh it off rather than berate myself, teaches him about forgiving himself. Especially important since he inherited the clumsy gene!

TAKING TIME TO CREATE, CAN PRODUCE DELICIOUS RESULTS.

Learning to work for a desired result has become less common these days. Instant gratification can be easily communicated by my son’s question why we could not merely cook the muffins by microwave. I guess this speaks a little to some of my cooking methods. He had many bouts of frustration and whining while demanding his food. In these moments, we were able to talk about patience and the importance of waiting. Ultimately, he was able to  experience the positive effects of working for a result while eating his fresh baked good.

HE HAS SOMETHING TO OFFER.

Taking time to include him was a sacrifice. The baking took longer and more of a mess was made. However, it told him that he was important and could contribute to something Mommy was working on. He was able to feel valued by the quality time, the praise when he did something well and the end result of something edible. My attention told him that he is worthwhile.

These lessons can be communicated in a variety of ways. What is something you enjoy that you can do with your little one? 

Making messy memories, Allyson Pitre

Posted in isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting

Those What Ifs and Should Haves

Maybe you can pinpoint the reason you are disconnected from others, but what about those pesky thoughts that perpetuate you staying disconnected and on an island away from people? We want connection. We want to belong. Most of us want to do life with others. However, our internal voice often stops us.

The great news is that our brains are moldable and can be retrained to improve our inner voice, that constant self-talk. If we can improve our self-talk, we can also enhance our connection with others and feel less isolated.

The What Ifs

Ever psyched yourself up for an outing, event, or social gathering only to talk yourself out of it with a “what if” statement like one of these?

What if my toddler throws one of his famous tantrums that turns heads?

What if my nine year old can’t control his hyperactivity and they judge my parenting?

What if they’ve heard about the recent choices my teenager made?

What if I just don’t fit in with this group of women?

Those “what if “ statements are really good at keeping us in the dark and prohibit us from doing things that will help us connect. Can you hear the anxiety in the “what ifs”? I often remind clients and myself that most of our “what if” thoughts do not come true.

If one or two of them does prove true, we will survive it. I often ask clients, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” and ask you the same question. When we frame it that way it does not seem as scary. If you are sure one of your “what ifs” will come true, like your child being defiant or having a rough moment, prepare yourself for it and have a plan. In spite of the “what ifs” swirling in your head, go to the play date, meet up with moms for coffee, or attend the event. You will likely find that you have a much better time than you thought.

When we recognize our “what ifs”, we also have the power to stop living in the “what ifs.” One of my favorite quotes is from Corrie ten Boom. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” Take it from someone who knew suffering and may have felt isolated during her immense hardships. Don’t let those “what ifs” steal the strength you have today.

The Should Haves

Ever talked yourself out of going to another event or staying connected with a group of people because of the “should have” thoughts that followed afterwards?

I should have kept quiet when they discussed that controversial topic.

I should have been less vulnerable and kept my conversation on a surface level.

I should have worn something else.

I should have used a different parenting approach in front of them.

Can you hear the anxiety, self-defeat, and even shame in those “should have” statements? In cognitive behavioral therapy, we call “should statements” a cognitive distortion. This means it is an unhealthy pattern of thinking sure to produce negative emotional results.

If you got out of your house and connected with people, you succeeded. You did something healthy and maybe it was vulnerable, so don’t let the “should have” statements rob your joy. Brene’ Brown reminds us, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” If a moment is awkward or you could have done something differently, take note and move on. Replaying it in your mind a hundred times probably won’t make you feel better. Retreating and not engaging because of a perceived negative moment will not produce healing either, only more hurt.

Encouragement for Introverts

As an introvert, I understand thinking about connecting, doing something social, or even sometimes picking up the phone to call and check on a friend out of state feels like too much after you’ve been interacting with your family or people at work all day. You need to be alone to recharge, and that’s okay. Consider setting a weekly or biweekly goal for connecting with others. If you don’t have a group or people you consider “your people,” start working to build one with a couple of people you trust or can learn to trust. When I became pregnant with my first child, I did not have a network of close mom friends who lived near me. My close friends were in different seasons of life or located hundreds of miles away. I had to seek out new people, connect with others, and build friendships. I am so glad I did the legwork to build friendships with other moms who have children similar in age as mine. These women have been such blessings in my life. When you start milling through the “what ifs” in your mind, remember connecting and meaningful relationships are worth it.

Charge to Extroverts

How great is it that you get your energy from being around others! Your love for people and energy can be magnetic. Continue to be mindful not to let those “what ifs” and “should haves” get you down. Your energy is needed. I would encourage you to invite others in, especially those who you know might reach out on their own. Be an includer; no one wants to be on the outside. If you are an extrovert who finds yourself in a season of loneliness or isolation, I would encourage to reach out and make the connection with a trusted friend. You will likely be glad that you did!

Final Thought

I encourage you, introvert or extrovert, outgoing or shy, to make one stride against isolation and towards connection this week. Call that friend out of town. Invite someone over. Arrange a play date for your kids so you can spend time with another mom. Attend something social. Check on a friend who you know has had a hard time.

When those pesky “what ifs” or “should haves” come to mind, picture a red stop sign in your brain, stop the thought, and show up anyway. The more you do this, the less consuming those thoughts will become.

Blessings,

Andrea

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, summer

Uprooting Isolation

Isolation.  The feeling of being separated from others.  Have you ever stood in a room, completely surrounded, but aching with loneliness, discomfort, and an intense desire to connect?  I have.  And I think it is prevalent for moms, even in the moments that you have escaped from “nap jail” as a dear neighbor humorously commented to me.  Sometimes it is so difficult to connect – to know and be known by others.  Maybe it’s the fear of being judged for our frazzled mom appearance or our parenting habits.  Maybe it’s because we are just out of the loop and don’t know where to begin conversation.  Maybe it’s because we have spent all of our “energy bucks” on our family and can barely muster concern for the intricacies happening in the lives of others.  Whatever the cause, we must deal with the internal root of isolation. 

Isolation is a nasty weed that can grow from various root systems.  Recently we had a plant that we just could not get rid of in our back yard.  I cut it down… numerous times.  I poisoned it… numerous times.  And I complained about it a whole lot.  But the green bushy plant kept coming back.  It was relentless.  Nothing worked to get rid of this plant until we finally dug it up by the root.  I find isolation is very similar to this plant.  It digs deep.  And we can deal with all the impacts that grow above the surface, cutting it back every few months.  But until we address the root, isolation will return.  I have found that isolation, when present in my life, has a much deeper and widespread root system than what one might think.  When I feel lonely and the deep, aching longing to know and to be known, I can usually- if I have the insight and discipline to stop and reflect- identify a few of the roots that are contributing to the isolation. Here are just a few I’ve noticed in my life. 

1. Unresolved Hurt: Whether in friendships, community groups, marriages, or work relationships, stuffing emotions and avoiding real conversations about valid hurts affirm the harmful message within that connection is dangerous and not worth the risk and effort.  You teach to yourself the false message that you are not worthy of love and belonging. Full disclosure, this is a tough area for me.  It’s a vulnerable experience to give someone your heart and share how they hurt you (see below for my distaste for vulnerability).  Fearful of rejection, denial of harm, or being exposed for our own flaws, us mamas aren’t so great at confronting hurts in a gentle, respectful way.  Our kiddos must see this modeled and must learn how to navigate conflict when relational roads get bumpy.

2. Insecurity and Unwillingness to be Vulnerable With Others: In his book Caring for One Another, Ed Welch says, “Our pride resists being vulnerable.  Even more, if you have ever confided in someone and received comments that were hurtful or less than supportive, you might have decided on the spot never to let that happen again, which means that you keep your troubles to yourself.”  Our unresolved hurt and insecurities create a wall of self-protection  and we begin resisting the risks of being vulnerable.  It’s so hard to be vulnerable, to let others know you.  But friend, let me urge you, cannot know unless you are known.  Yes, vulnerability will inevitably allow others to get close enough to hurt you.  But it will also let the sweetness of companionship, support, and belonging to be known by you.

3. Unhealthy Standards and Expectations:  The final part to the root of isolation that has taken up residence in the yard of my life (cue the uncomfortable vulnerability) has been unrealistic expectations and idealistic dreams of what friendships should look like.  Only when I have abandoned the thoughts that all my friends should parent like me, live lifestyles like me, find the same humor funny, and spend money like me have I been able to enjoy the sweetness of friendship.  When I let that idealized picture of friendship go, I’m free to truly enjoy my friends’ differences, have meaningful conversations, and reciprocate vulnerability.  Friend, if we are unwilling to be authentic and vulnerable, we cannot expect others to be authentic and vulnerable with us.  Let people in, whether that be into the messiness of your heart or the messiness of your house.  Welcome people in to the mess of life and ask, “Will you sit with me here for a while?”

To be sure, you may find the root system of your isolation to be comprised of other factors: a move away from your family and support system, loss of a loved one, or circumstances outside of your control.  If you find yourself in this predicament, let me encourage you, there is healing in connection.  It takes bravery, energy, and planning.  But you are worthy of love and belonging.  Ask someone for help to dig that root up, and rid the isolation that is persistent in your life.  With equal importance, when you pass someone else’s yard of life and see the isolation growing out of control, offer to help dig it up.  The root of isolation, by its very nature, cannot be dug up alone.  I recently had a sweet friend of mine say to me, “Don’t let me isolate myself.”  We tend to do that, don’t we?  Don’t worry Mama, I’ve got my shovel.  

A few reflection questions for you to assist in digging up your root system of isolation:

How have you found yourself responding when hurt by others?  Do you move near to talk it out?  Or are you more likely to withdraw to avoid being hurt?

What are the insecurities that keep you from being authentic and vulnerable with others?  Who is a safe person you can be vulnerable with this week?

What are the judgements you pass on other friends?  How might you let that go so you can enjoy their differences and sweet fellowship with them?

In the mess with you,

Tiffany Raley

Posted in isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting

Standing Strong…alone

When I first became a parent, no one warned me about isolation. It snuck up on me unexpectedly in those first weeks of motherhood when I was up at 3:00 am feeding my newborn. Sitting there in the darkness, I felt like the only other person awake in the world. But in those same quiet early morning hours, I started connecting with other moms who were up at odd hours too. They too were awake feeding newborns, or comforting sick kids, or just patiently waiting out another night filled with the struggles of insomnia. I had found a new community and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.

In each season of parenthood, isolation – or at least the risk of isolation – has followed. And in each season the ways that I have received and responded to the isolation have changed as well. What has stayed constant is the fact that finding and staying connected to my “people” is something I’m never able to take for granted. While, in general, it is always the best practice to attempt to connect and build community whenever possible, sometimes isolation cannot and shouldn’t be avoided, even if it’s just for a time.

FOR SOME, ISOLATION IS UNAVOIDABLE. For mothers who have just moved to a new state or who are struggling with anxiety or depression. For mothers of children who have medical or behavioral conditions that make parenting a 24/7 task or make it difficult to go anywhere but home or the hospital. For the working mother who feels too thinly stretched to build community when she already feels like she is giving too little to both work and home.

FOR OTHERS, ISOLATION IS THE BEST OPTION – AT LEAST FOR A TIME. For the introverted mother who knows she needs to save her emotional energy for her family. For the mother who lives in a community that does not feel safe or supportive for her or for her children.

AND SOMETIMES, ISOLATION IS INEVITABLE AS RHYTHMS AND ROUTINES CHANGE. It takes time to learn how to reconnect again and again as life, children, routines, and our desires change.

If you have found yourself isolated from community in this season, you are still not alone. It happens to almost every parent at some point along the way. Whatever the reason and however long the season, isolation can be a unique space to explore and grow in ways that can be more difficult when we are surrounded by community.

PRACTICE STILLNESS

While parenting in general is a busy business, some moms find it difficult to slow down at all. If you find yourself being driven by perfection, use the still moments in a season of isolation for practicing stillness. This can look like practicing deep breathing or even just accepting the mess your children make as you sit and eat or do crafts with them. Being still can help balance your perspective and help you see what is already good, even if it is imperfect.

DO SOMETHING JUST FOR YOU

As parents, it can hard sometimes to feel valued beyond the things that we do. If you find yourself questioning what value you have beyond being the cook/chauffeur/shopper/maid/planner, then in times when you find yourself isolated it may be time to ask yourself what you need. Show yourself that you are worthy outside of what you do for others by taking some time to give to yourself. Put your favorite meal on the week’s menu or put something in your home just because you think it is beautiful. Finding ways to practice giving to yourself can help safeguard you from losing yourself in the role of motherhood.

MARK THE MILESTONES YOU HAVE ALREADY CROSSED

Take the time to mark and reflect on all that you already done. Parenting is a relentless to do list and the measuring stick we (and other people) use to measure our success is constantly growing, shifting, and becoming more and more complicated. If you find it difficult to step outside of the expectations of others or chasing success, then it might be helpful to use isolation as a time to reflect on what you have already accomplished. Use the space of isolation to remind yourself of how valuable you already are.

CREATE NEW RHYTHMS OF DISCIPLINE

Sometimes when we are disconnected from community it can be easier to fall into habits of self-indulgence. If you find that it can be difficult to stabilize your emotions when you are in seasons of isolation, creating habits of self-discipline can help to ground and refocus you. Practice having a bedtime, develop an exercise routine, or start using a planner/calendar. Choose something that feels both doable and stabilizing.

BUILD YOUR CASTLE

There are things as parents that we all want to keep away from our kids and families, especially when it comes to the values and beliefs that you are trying to instill into your children. Use the times when you find yourself isolated to emphasize those values and beliefs. Create the culture in your home that you want your children to be a part of inside of your home.

BE FULLY PRESENT

Oftentimes we get so wrapped up in what comes next that we start to lose sight of what is in front of us. If you find it hard to be present and find yourself constantly planning the next outing or social event, it might be helpful to slow down and practice being fully present. Notice everything. Take mental pictures. Try to be completely in the moment right in front of you, not three steps ahead.

LISTEN TO YOURSELF AND UNPLUG

Sometimes it can feel easy to lose ourselves when we are always around or talking to other people. Use the space of isolation to take off the “shoulds” you have been carrying around like ‘you should really do this more…’ or ‘you really know you shouldn’t…” Instead, take the opportunity to listen to what you really want and who you want to be as a parent. It can be easy to try to fit into the mold someone else has created, but take the time to ask yourself if you believe or are doing something because it’s what you want or if it’s because someone else told you it was a good idea.

Do not let isolation swallow you up with its darkness. Instead, strive to be your own light in the dark spaces. The paths towards change, growth, and joy all begin exactly where you are at right now and they only take the smallest steps to get closer and closer.

In the joy and in the chaos,

Selena

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