Relationship Survival Mode and Taking Care of Yourself
In Dealing with Parenting Rage Part 1 I published a reply to a reader who had asked about staying calm with intense parenting situations. If I could include a few more things in my response, here’s what I would say-
When everything feels like it’s spinning out of control I think about being in survival mode. The top priority is the survival of my relationship with my child. I believe my connection with my kids is of paramount importance.
I try to remain vigilant about my own anger triggers so I can take action to keep myself calm. For instance, too much sound and noise can send me OVER THE EDGE. The kids might just be being kids, so I’ve got to turn off the radio if that extra sound is going to make me snap. Or if the kids’ play is making the kind of sound that I *know* is likely to trigger me, I need to notice that as soon as possible so I can make a choice about what to do before I’m on sensory overload myself. (ie. go to another room, give them an alternative play choice, send them out back to play, etc.)
Possible anger triggers to watch for:
- Low blood sugar
- Being too hot or cold
- Eating sugar (We can be as susceptible as our kids to this.)
- Drinking a glass of wine or beer (I know, many of us would like to relax this way, but sometimes it’s the thing that keeps you from holding it together too. You know yourself.)
- Windy days
- Various sensory input (I have a friend who noticed that bare feet on tile floors makes her angry.)
We tend to try to help our kids with their surroundings and food choices and forget that the affect us as well. By noticing what makes us more edgy we can make choices that will help us stay centered.
I use humor to diffuse tense kid situations. Yes, sometimes I have to fake it, but really, my kids cannot hear me if they are crying, scared or upset. We might as well find a way to tone it down and THEN handle whatever was causing the friction. Sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes I forget to do this when it would work, but it lightens everyone’s mood including mine when it does, so it’s worth trying. Just get silly and see what happens.
“Oh, no I think I’ve got to tickle away the grumpies! Go away grumpies! Get out of this belly!!”
Note- beware of the difference between being silly and making fun of your child. I think you can feel inside when you’ve moved into not respecting their feelings – that’s mean humor and not what we’re going for, of course.
I take notice of what I’m visualizing. I went through a time where ear-piercing-death-harpy-screams (you know that one that makes your brain rattle in your skull?) those screams would have me visualizing knives in my head. This did nothing to help cool my temper. Finally I came up with an alternate visualization that helped me disconnect a little bit so I could deal with the situation with some modicum of sanity and avoid flying into a rage because I can’t make the screaming stop.
(In case you are curious, the admittedly odd visualization that worked for me was marbles streaking paint as they roll around in a bowl – you just have to find your own thing that works.)
I prioritize sleep and good nutrition for myself. I’ve got to be realistic about the fact that I am living a very busy and intense portion of my life. I need to be ready to meet that challenge. I am tempted to put myself last, but too often I have found myself having adult temper tantrums because I haven’t taken care of my own needs. I am doing my kids no favors if I only look at their needs and then bite their heads off later when I’m completely worn out.
Help with parenting anger from readers:
In the comments of the Dealing With Parenting Rage Part 1 readers have left numerous other tips. Here are some more options to consider if you notice yourself getting out of control:
- Relax and allow yourself to just watch a movie together.
- Lots of self care
- Counseling can help you notice unhealthy relationship patterns, sometimes carried over from previous generations.
- “…sometimes we just have to be like water and go with the flow.”
- Focus on noticing the parts of your day that you’re grateful for.
And finally, this beautiful quote from momstown.ca on my facebook post:
I think so many of us struggle with the same problems, but we each struggle in silence, worried that we are the only ones. Each of us pretends to be okay because we think everyone else is okay. There is so much freedom, healing, and support that comes when someone is willing to make herself vulnerable.
Vulnerability can be scary and uncomfortable; whether it is back tracking to apologize to your child, going to a counselor or calling a friend and asking for advice, it feels shaky, and perhaps like we’re admitting failure. However, some of the most beautiful moments in our lives come out of vulnerability, because that’s when the walls are down and we can foster real connection and real growth.
Have courage to take whatever step you need to grow. What an amazing example you are setting for your children when they see you taking care of yourself this way.
You are doing such good work. I’m honored to have you reading here. Have you got more ideas to share? We’d love to read them in the comments.
If you’d like more support for dealing with anger and stopping yelling or spanking, see our Resource Page for How to Deal with Anger
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.