Anna Dusseau | 16th April 2020
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Oh my! Do you ever have one of those days where you just weren’t the kind of parent you normally like to be? I work really hard on keeping my cool and mostly feel like it’s not even an effort, as my kids are so fun and creative to spend time with. Either that, or I’ve just forgotten what adult company and Processo at 1pm feels like. But look, sometimes..? I can like everything comes together to create a situation in which you snap and can hear yourself, as if from a distance, parenting in a way that you know isn’t conducive to anyone’s well-being and happiness. I really hate that. Teenwolf will confirm that I have spent a few sleepless nights beating myself up over yelling at my 4 year old. I mean, it doesn’t happen much but in the current pandemic, families are all stretched to their capacity with new stresses placed upon us which can affect our home dynamic. So, if you are feeling frazzled, here is my tried and tested recipe for how to breeze through a bad day and get back to your usual fabulous family vibe straight away the next morning.
Talking it through. The first step is always to acknowledge what has happened with the child involved, or the family as a whole, if you feel that you’ve just had a ‘shouty’ day. I try to do this before bedtime, so that we can all sleep well and begin afresh the next day. Depending on the age of your children, remember to sit down with them at their level, maintain eye contact (unless they don’t like that) and be honest with them. Telling them that you are feeling tired, or admitting that you overreacted to something isn’t going to make you lose your authority. I find when I am open with my children that they are more likely to admit where they also went wrong (sometimes revealing new and unexpected layers of naughtiness which requires the frozen zen face and namaste smile at this point no matter what) and so we can work things out together. Be sure to speak in short, clear sentences, especially with younger children or children with special needs such as autism, where too much analysis may confuse the issue. Just be clear that you love them very much, that you hate yelling, and that you’re keen for tomorrow to be a better day.
“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers
Figuring out what happened. Before you go to bed, though, you might want to reflect on what happened to make this crisis point occur. As I say, everyone’s definition of a crisis point is different and for you, it might be that you simply got cross, which isn’t you, or it could be that you felt you had no time for the kids today as you were overwhelmed with admin and remote working, leaving you snappy and distracted. Whatever happened, once you have made peace with the kids, have a think or discuss with your partner what went on which triggered the negative situation today. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you trying to pack too much into the day? Is there something going on in your work or personal life which is putting you on edge? Perhaps something needs to shift in your schedule to release the pressure and relax your time with the kids? Figure it out quietly after bedtime and step into the next day confident that you know how to handle things in future. A personal tip from me here, is that I sometimes find I get overwhelmed with what I would call ‘phone admin’ (I know you know what I mean..) and this can impact on my mood with the kids. If I feel that this was a factor in a difficult day, then I make a point of physically switching my phone off or putting it in a drawer for the day, so that the ankle nippers have my total attention. I know this isn’t realistic long-term but I sometimes find it helps me to re-center myself and draws my attention to what really matters.
Moving on. I always feel anxiety in my own parenting abilities for a day or so after what I would call a ‘bad day’ with the kids. Yes, I’m an over-thinker. I have a blog, duh! If I’ve lost it and spent 10 minutes fish-wifing in the garden before bath time, I tend to feel empty afterwards and like I need a little extra boost to be sure of doing things properly. So, for a day or two, until I find my stride again, I’ll go a little further to make sure I’m back on track. For example, I might take a deep breath and count to five any time I feel wound up by a situation, giving myself time to reflect on the best possible way to respond to – you know – shit like finding chocolate milkshake on the laptop. Another technique I like is the elastic band trick, where you put five bands on your left wrist and any time you snap with the kids even a little bit, you move a band across to your right wrist. To earn the band back again, you need to do something creative or playful with your kids, such as den building, dressing up or play dough. Of course, this is very false and not an authentic approach to parenting at all, but sometimes when we’ve taken a knock, it’s helpful to have a silly crutch to lean on to re-boost confidence just for 24 hours or so, after which you can forget it and return to your usual, natural parenting approach. Which is brilliant, of course, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Whatever the vibe is like in your house right now, try to be kind to yourself and lower your expectations a bit. This is a very testing time for everyone and I would suggest relaxing some of the rules a bit, being mindful of how everyone – including yourself – is feeling, and trying not to heap any unnecessary stresses onto an already challenging situation. Homeschooling is a joy and I feel sad that this is not at all the message that so many families must be getting in the present situation, given the extreme measures adopted in response to this global pandemic. Nevertheless, however we educate our children, we are all in this together. Once upon a time, we were all swigging Bacardi Breezers behind the bike sheds and checking our lip liner (dads? no?) and now look at us. We give a damn if there’s a putanesca hand print on the wall. Let’s just all take a collective breath and remember that these slightly grating tiny people are, in fact, everything to us. Fucked up laptop or not, they make every day worth it and, let’s be honest, the stuff that makes you hit the roof now would have made you laugh and roll another cigarette back in the day. Happy Thursday, everyone!
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