by Kelly Villaruel
As we spend more time together with our families in close quarters with little or no time away, we may find our patience wearing thin. As our own stress levels rise, we may notice an increase in testing or boundary pushing coming from our children and chances are, at some point, we will react to a situation in a way that is counterproductive and filled with regret. Please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! After all, we are human and sometimes being human is messy. As we move through this situation that none of us have ever done before, we are bound to mess up here and there while we “learn as we go”. It is ok. Our children will be ok. And in the end, we
have the opportunity to share a valuable gift with our children, a life skill that some may only learn by experiencing first hand. I am talking about the gift of making things right, or restitution.
As adults, we are modeling for our children how to be human beings in the world. They watch us closely and look to us for clues as to how to react and respond in every situation. Children take their emotional cues from the adults in their presence. And as parents, their primary caregivers, they look to us most of all. Here is one of the most magical things about children; they are literally barometers for our internal mood, meaning that even if we are “holding it together” on the outside, they will feel and play out what we are experiencing on the inside. Now, this applies to every situation, from the current world shift to burning the eggs at breakfast. If we feel it, they feel it. The hard part, sometimes, is finding internal calm in stressful situations.
Then there are the times that our children are seemingly out of sorts and it does not appear that anything has happened. Maybe they “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” and are just plain grumpy. I think it is fair to say that we have all experienced those times when our children’s mood dictates what happens in the home, both positively and negatively, whether or not our internal state is calm. There are so many possible reasons that children are out of sorts; hungry, thirsty, tired, they have to go to the bathroom…the list can go on and on. Conflicts can arise, seemingly out of nowhere, and the key to maneuvering through them is to share our calm rather than enter the chaos of our children when they lose control. Of course, this is easier said than done. Simple; yes. Easy; no. And what if we are in an emotional state where we can not quite access our internal calm? It can be easy to go down the rabbit hole with our children in those moments and it will happen from time to time. Again, our children will be ok.
I want to share a little trick that you can add to your magical “Mary Poppins bag” of tools to help you find that calm when it seems hard to reach. I learned this trick many years ago and I use it nearly every day in many different situations. As we go through our daily routine, we have a tendency to be in our heads a lot, not as much in our bodies. Some people have meditation or exercise practices such as yoga, runnin
g or lifting weights, that can bring us back into our bodies. These types of practices are good for our physical and emotional well beings and we model for our children the importance of such practices. However, in a moment of our children losing control, we do not have the luxury of going for a quick run to clear our heads so we may handle the situation in a more tactful way. So, what can we do in that moment? We can bring our awareness into our feet. When we shift our awareness from our head to our feet, we can ground ourselves and approach a conflict from that place of sharing our calm. Bringing your awareness to your feet is more than just thinking about them, but you are trying to “be” in them. It is a good thing to practice daily so that when you need to do it, it comes easy.
Why not practice right now? To start, bring your awareness to your feet and feel your toes. You can picture them in your mind’s eye. Wiggle them around a little bit and notice how they feel. Are they touching the ground? Are they up in the air? With each inhale imagine that, as you breathe out, you are breathing into your feet. Move your awareness to the balls of your feet, then arches, then heels, then ankles. Take several breaths in each place and you are just noticing what they feel like. Then breathe into your whole foot. What does that feel like? You are simply noticing the sensations of your feet, are they sore, tight, relaxed….? Practice this several times a day. When faced with challenges, bringing our awareness to our feet is something like pressing the reset bu
tton as it shifts our focus and we can come back to the task at hand with a clearer mind. Something else important to note is that THIS IS NATURE CONNECTION because as human beings, we ARE nature, we are NOT separate from it and this is a practice in connecting to ourselves.
Ideally, we do this practice, or whatever else we can do to share our calm in those times when our children (or we) lose control. But what if we can’t pull it off in the moment and react to our children in a way that we wish we didn’t? Here comes that magical giftof restitution that we can teach them. When everyone has calmed down, we can go back and make it right. We get to go back to our children and say “I wish I would have said …….instead of ……….”. Because children naturally imitate us, you can bet that they will learn how to do it too.