You’ve had a long and tiring day. And, just when you think you can finally relax, your child acts out. He refuses to listen to what you say or follow your instructions. Cracks begin appearing in your calm demeanour and before you know it, you’re yelling at him, letting your anger get the better of you.
This is not an uncommon situation. Parenting comes with its fair share of challenges that can take their toll on us every once in a while, leaving us feeling angry, frustrated and exhausted. And often, it is our children who are at the receiving end of our outbursts. Therefore, as parents, it is important for us to realise that we must keep our emotions in control and stay calm.
Why it is important for you to remain calm
Anger or aggression does not help change or resolve any problem. We only end up distressing ourselves and those around us. Ms Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor and Head – Parent Engagement Programs, ParentCircle, says, “Although it’s quite natural for parents to lose their cool in a stressful situation, it is their responsibility to take charge, to protect the child and, to resolve the conflict. Stress shows up in a physical–emotional–reaction sequence. Calming the self helps a parent restore normal breathing and, stabilise other bodily reactions," she explains.
How to be a calm parent
The secret to keeping our frustrations in check is to be mindful and calm during times of stress. According to Ms Arundhati, “A calm parent has control over emotions and is able to think of the best possible options to deal with the stressful situation."
Here are some tips to help you keep your cool when the going gets tough:
- Commit to staying calm: Make a conscious decision to avoid losing your temper, especially while facing a challenging situation involving your child. Make a promise to yourself that you will not react in anger by yelling at or hitting your child. Keep reminding yourself about your promise. Initially, attempting to stay calm might seem like asking a lot from yourself, but it will become easier the longer you stick to it. You will soon learn that you are able to handle most parenting challenges without getting angry.
- Understand how to stay calm: Figure out how you can stay calm and what works for you. Think of ways that will help you manage your anger. For instance, it could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or closing your eyes and counting to ten. You could even come up with your own mantra like ‘Breathe’, 'Stay calm’, ‘Relax’ or ‘I’m not going to let this get to me’. Ms Arundhati says, “The first thing to do in a situation is to give yourself a time-out to pause — take a few slow, deep breaths to restore your natural breathing rhythm and, get as much oxygen into your brain and body.” Allow yourself a few moments to compose yourself, remember the promise you have made and, think things through. Put these measures into practice to stay relaxed when you feel like you might react negatively.
- Recognise the triggers: What makes you feel frustrated and pushes you towards losing your temper? Try to understand the triggers that make you react in an inappropriate way. For instance, it could be specific words and actions or, a particular behaviour or habit. Once you are able to identify what gets you worked up, you will be able to find out ways of dealing with the triggers and keeping your cool.
- Understand your own emotions: It is normal for us to feel angry and frustrated. But, it is crucial that we realise and accept these feelings and, understand how to keep them under control. “Become aware of your emotions – name them, accept them and tell yourself it’s alright to feel them, no matter what they are,” says Ms Arundhati. So, go ahead and acknowledge your feelings; but, don’t allow them to dictate your reaction to a situation.
- Walk away: If you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to maintain your composure, walk away from the scene, instead of giving in to difficult emotions. By doing this, you will also teach your child how she should respond when she is feeling agitated. But, before you move away, tell your child that you need some time to yourself. Tell her you will deal with the situation or have a discussion, later.
- Make a plan: Handling myriad responsibilities -- parenting, office work and household chores -- may not leave you with time for anything else. But, try and set aside some time to indulge in a hobby like gardening or painting, or for some exercise like walking or yoga. These are great ways to lower your stress levels. Me-time improves your mental well-being, thereby helping you stay calm and focused.
- Take care of yourself: Self-care should be a priority. Make sure you don’t neglect your own health, as this can easily get in the way of staying calm. Eat right, as unhealthy food can increase stress levels and affect your mood. Don’t attempt to deal with everything yourself, as that can also trigger frustration and other negative emotions. Rely on family and friends for support during challenging times.
Remember, staying calm always helps you take charge of situations and deal with them more effectively. “Consider the situation within its context. Don’t let it expand into other areas of your life. Else, it can make you feel like nothing ever works or, that it is too big to handle,” Ms Arundhati reiterates.
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