Do you look forward to seeing your children after a day apart, only to discover they have kept all their best behaviour for their teacher? I used to cajole, attempt to cuddle, reprimand and sometimes join in the wailing myself, but last year I Iearned something that completely changed the way I manage this part of the day.
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Our children’s brains are wired to develop in a safe and solid relationship with their parents. When they’re apart from us, their brains work very hard to both process everything that is happening and remain ‘okay’ without us to lean on. When they see us at the end of the day, their guard comes down, and we get to see all the frustration, sadness and anger they may have felt during the day.
Remind yourself it’s normal
So when the after-school meltdowns begin, I now remind myself that this is normal and it really is a privilege, because it actually means they feel safe to let it out. Often the good news and positive emotions follow quickly when the challenging ones are allowed expression. So I listen and empathise, “That sounds so tough, hun. You were really brave.” Then listen, offer no solutions, listen again, cuddle (if I’m allowed) and try and make sure each child gets a turn. Most days, relatively quickly, we settle back to normal.
Shift your brain from stress to calm
I also find that if I am in a better frame of mind, I am more able to listen and empathise when a meltdown occurs. For most parents, busy is normal. A busy brain however, is only a few steps away from a stressed brain. Unexpected traffic, a firm ‘no’ from your child or an after-kindy meltdown, and your system can be flooded with the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. You can’t see it, but you can definitely feel it, and it can quickly lead to reactions you feel you have no control over.
It is surprisingly simple to shift your brain from a state of stress to a state of calm. One way to do this is by consciously paying mindful attention to the sights and sounds of your environment. For example, every morning I take two to three minutes, and instead of thinking of my ‘to do’ list, I focus on my breathing or on the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around me.
You can do it making your coffee, in the shower, driving to school or work, or if you’re lucky, on your morning walk or jog. Afterwards I feel calmer, more confident and ready for the day. Every time you practise mindfulness in this way, you are developing your brain’s capacity to feel calm in response to the triggers of the day.
Book a session with a Family Coach
Sometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.