There are times in life when things seem to get out of whack and we need to step back, re-evaluate, and start fresh. Here are some thoughts on hitting the rest button at home.
It’s not difficult to recognize the symptoms. Once well-behaved children are running amok. Sleeping patterns and habits are disrupted. You have less patience. Everyone seems frustrated, whiny, and out of sorts.
“Mommy, I just can’t brush my teeth right now. Big girls.don’t.brush.teeth!!!!”
“I don’t like dinner!” “But this used to be your favorite?” “I never had a favorite!”
Things are out of whack.
We’ve gone through this in recent weeks, and since I’ve lived to tell about it, here is how I’m trying to press the reset button and find a new – and pleasant – norm. I do believe that it all starts with the mom, but there are most definitely circumstances that can change the home dynamic. Here’s how I think we can get back to a place of peace.
1. Identify downhill slide
Often, the reason for the change in atmosphere is fairly obvious. You’ve moved, had a new baby, or just gone through a busy holiday season. Other times it is more gradual. By identifying when the downhill slide started you’ll be able to paint a clearer picture. You may find out that a major change in routine can really effect children’s behavior.
When my children miss their independent play time too often, they become fussy with each other and no longer play well. The same can be said for watching too much television. During the final weeks of pregnancy, TV watching increased unapologetically. This helped me to rest, but had its own effects.
2. Step back and regroup
Instead of reacting to the new norm with decreased patience, kindness, and attention for the kids, step back. Take some time to figure out what new behaviors have started that aren’t pleasant, and then try to isolate a source. Are your children getting enough time with you? Are they feeling insecure because of changes outside of your control?
When you know where the new behaviors and dynamics stem from, it’s easier to create a plan of action going forward. If they are feeling insecure, cracking down on discipline won’t help because it isn’t a bad attitude that is the root of the problem. For each child, figure out what seems off, and try to pinpoint a source.
3. Sit the kids down and dig
Older children will likely tell you what’s going on with them without much prompting. They can articulate their feelings, and help work with you to find solutions. Younger children are generally not able to do so. My 3-year-old is particularly perceptive and she will often slip me a gem when having nightly our nightly talks. However, it still requires digging.
Ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling? You seem frustrated,” to get the ball rolling. “What would make you happy?” may reveal some interesting answers, and point you to a desire of their hearts. If it’s obvious what has caused the upheaval, you can skip this step. Otherwise, this might be the most important part of the process.
4. Get back on track
Next comes the hard part. Consistently and purposefully getting back to where you want to be. In some cases, this may be a completely new normal. If that’s so, it’ll be a long process. In other cases, it could be as simple as re-instituting an appropriate bedtime or getting back to a healthy diet.
If things have really gone haywire, you may need to go slow with baby steps. Cutting back down on TV time doesn’t have to be cold turkey, but you could cut it in half or take off 15 minute increments. If young ones have adopted bad sleeping habits, you will have to start slow and do what you can to get back to norm.
5. Be patient and focus on the good
When things get out of whack at home, I become very impatient. When I’m impatient I find it difficult to bond with the kids because I tend to want to be alone to process my frustration. So, when the best solution is usually bonding with the kids and working through it, I’m tempted to create even more distance to cope.
Solution? Focus on the good. My 16 month old is teething and it is horrible, but I do love him so. Instead of trying to constantly problem solve and ease his pain and make him stop fussing, I have been sitting down and playing with him even more. It doesn’t solve all problems, but it helps focus my priorities.
Getting your routine out of whack can throw everyone for a loop, but is easily remedied. Children may be going through emotional upheaval, but that’s just an opportunity to teach them how to handle their emotions and get back into big picture thinking. With a little persistence and love you can reset the atmosphere at home to one of peace again.
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