In moments of stress we tend to react, rather than consciously make decisions about our behaviours. So, these moments are when we are likely to revert back to old patterns, the subconscious ones. If you find this happening, remember that it’s OK to pause; literally just take a moment when you realise you aren’t parenting towards your ideals.
Unless there is a life-threatening crisis at hand, pausing is not going to create any lasting harm, in fact it will do you and your child the world of good.
Stop mid-sentence, explain to your child (and yourself) that you need to take a moment so that you can parent or make choices that aren’t in the heat of the moment and step away. By step away I mean metaphorically not literally. We need to stay with our children to show that we aren’t rejecting them, but you could change your position from standing to seated, cuddle your child, invite them to take a few deep and calming breaths with you, walk around the block together and only revisit the discussion or situation when you know you are making a conscious choice about your response to a stressful/overwhelming parenting situation.
This could be formal support with a psychologist or counsellor, or through groups and support networks of people with similar life experiences, via reading or learning, taking classes or seeking solace with a loved one who is supportive. One of my favourite sayings is that you can’t walk into a forest for 10 kilometres and expect to get back in only 5 kilometres.
Simply put, healing takes time and perseverance, and the walks we take in life are always more bearable when we have a hand to hold along the way.
It can be tough to seek help; sometimes our internal dialogue tells us it’s weak to seek help or we have trouble relying on others (maybe we don’t have a good history of people sticking around or being supportive)…but actually seeking help is one of the strongest and most powerful things you can ever do for yourself. My message here is that you don’t have to do it alone!
Rachel Tomlinson is a Registered Psychologist, founder of Toward Wellbeing and author of parenting book “Teaching Kids to be Kind” (available worldwide) and picture book “A Blue Kind of Day” (due for worldwide publication in Autumn 2022). Rachel has worked with adults, children and families in a variety of settings, and has presented at national conferences and guest lectured on topics relating to play therapy, trauma and family/domestic violence. She lives in Perth, Australia with her husband, daughter and two goofy boxer dogs. You can follow her on Facebook.