Dear Caring Parent,
Our love for our children can in fact hit trouble. Sometimes we fall out of what I call our parenting love zone- that easy, flowing, heartfelt connection to our little beings. This falling out could be caused by our pre-occupation with something stressful outside of parenting, our frustration because our child isn’t living up to what we feel is their capability, or maybe it’s the dramatic, contentious way our child is pushing us away. Whatever it is, we are out of that easy, flowing, heartfelt connection to them.
It’s normal to move in and out of our parenting love zone. However, when we are really struggling with an issue, it’s a heads up that it’s time to pay attention. How we manage ourself through these struggling times is so important to our own sense of well being, to our relationship with our child, and to our child’s way of growing into independence. Wow, that’s a lot!
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
There IS light at the end of the tunnel however, even though we crawl through that tunnel with varying degrees of ease and speed. Here’s three steps I’ve used myself and with others to get back into that flowing parenting love zone:
The first thing is to acknowledge “I’m outside of my parenting love zone.” Become aware of it; bring it to the table (your own bedside table let’s say). You don’t have to say it to the whole world. You do have to say it to yourself. Acknowledge “I’m really struggling with . . . so I’m not staying connected to love.”
The second thing is to work your feelings about . . . to neutrality. What is bugging you? What are you having so many feelings and thoughts about that you got into this state? The trick is to be able to acknowledge it, everything about it, without getting down on your child, down on yourself, or being full of steam about it all. So keep at it until you get to a point where can acknowledge this situation with a sense of neutrality; it’s not big, it’s not little, it’s not good, it’s not bad. You might want to journal some, talk to the air (in private please so we don’t have to worry about you), or talk to a therapist/good friend that knows how to just listen.
The third thing is good news! Now you get to notice the different options that spring to your mind once in neutrality. And believe me, they will. That’s the beauty of it. If you find yourself ramping up about it all again, go back to the first thing. You want the options to well up; it could be anything from realizing you don’t have to do anything, to taking different action that you hadn’t thought of before, or to taking care of yourself differently.
Sometimes these three steps get worked through rapidly. Other times they take months. Do your best as you aim for neutrality. Sometimes silence is doing your best. Sometimes you’ll find yourself storming, “hurumphing” or rolling your eyes. But keep at it. Because most likely what you are doing isn’t making things better or is creating a lot of unease in your life, not to mention your childs. Even if you are taking all the right steps and saying all the right things, your attitude and your energy around it isn’t helping you, and therefore probably not your child either.
When it’s Not Working!
I’m thinking of a Mom who’s smart 7th Grade son just couldn’t get course work completed on time. She’d become a bit “scratchy” about that; you know, pushy, storming about saying things like “what’s wrong with you, just do it already.” She worried her son would never “go anywhere in life”. This Mom:
- Helped out – but it wasn’t helping her son and took a lot of her energy
- Expressed her frustration – but it wasn’t helping her or her son
- Set him up to learn different structures for moving through projects – made her feel good, helped him temporarily
- Listened to him vent – helped him but left her drained, even though she reported she felt more in the love zone
Ok, so I’m listening to her and I can relate! I’ve rolled my eyes, muttered under my breath, and strategized also, all the while worrying away.
The Turning Point
This Mom was able to recognize that all her worry and strategy was outside of her parenting love zone (“the first thing” above). I suggested she write about everything worrying her about her sons behavior. Everything. Then throw it out. Symbolically throw the worries away.
Through that process she came to a neutral, non-reactive point (“the second thing” above). She described, “I then realized he owned this problem!” When it came up next she was able to ask him if he wanted suggestions. When he said “no”, she was okay with that. She was able to calmly walk away while telling him she was confident he could work it out (“the third thing” above). She was back in her parenting love zone!
Her son found a way to finish that assignment. Subsequently, he didn’t complete every assignment, but she let him experience that while being open to providing whatever support he needed.
This is NOT to say that ‘he owns this problem’ is the turning point when YOU are getting back into your parenting love zone. Absolutely not. You’ll find your own turning point. By going through this process you will get back into your parenting love zone. And the original problem will not take you and your child on a downward spiral in your relationship.
Is this easy? No. The second part in particular is, well, gosh, messy. For me, this is when I meet the committee in my head that has all this stuff to say about parenting. Sometimes it’s a pretty big committee! Somehow, thank goodness, in giving voice to it all (and writing is a great way to do this), the whole thing neutralizes. And the rest unfolds from there. If indeed you find yourself looping around this time and again, you might be stuck in this conflict trap.
So, dear caring parent, over the next week notice how you move in and out of your parenting love zone. If there’s something that leaves you still out of it at the end of the week, give these steps a try. And let me know how it goes by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, sign on to get e-notes and you can just click reply!
Take care now, Natasha