The Self-Care I Do When I'm Triggered As A Parent
Feeling triggered as a parent can come on unexpectedly, even if you know your triggers and have tried some inner-work to heal them. I think I speak for many of us. Even great moms like us have our days where we’re scolding and over-reacting, and then feel guilty afterwards because we know there’s a better way. But it’s not all so terrible - it can be seen as the perfect opportunity to get curious about our triggers, and ask ourselves what we might be needing in our self-care routine.
I remember so clearly 6 months ago, the morning started out peacefully as both children played with a simple salad spinner in their jammies. They took turns and each had a different plan for it. I was completely surprised by how this simple thing could create hours of play.
Start by “Sportscasting” Struggles
By the afternoon, after burying a dead hamster, a doctor's appointment, and a quick trip to the library (can you see where this is going?) - the charming salad spinner game transformed into a sibling rivalry which looked like screaming and rough exchanging back and forth. I came closer to them, feeling overwhelmed by the busy day- and now this that had to be dealt with.
I tried sportscasting this struggle at first, giving them a chance to work it out themselves. This is often very effective for my children because both of them know I'm not taking sides, and it allows me to do less, and for them to do a bit more problem solving. I had my hand ready to block any hitting or pushing, which is an important part to sportscasting a heated struggle to ensure everyone stays safe.
Their voices suddenly quieted, and Brother stopped pulling and walked away to another toy. Sister stood there with the salad spinner in her hands, and her eyes were a mix of tears and anger.
When I'm Triggered As A Parent
Then suddenly she threw the salad spinner across the room, and it bounced *near* the TV we just bought. Her rage had hit me by surprise, and I was really bugged that she aimed towards the expensive new thing in our home.
"What is your problem?! You nearly broke the new TV! You can go to your room and don't come down until you can respect our home!" I scolded her, loud enough I'm sure my neighbor heard. She ran up to her room crying, and I sat their feeling a mix of dissipating anger and some major growing guilt while brother looked curiously alarmed by what just went down.
These moments of losing my cool, especially the first year of having two children were increasing and I felt pretty hopeless about it. I knew I wanted to change but felt stuck in some all too familiar patterns. Add in sleep deprivation and my husband working long hours - I felt sad that so much was out of my control.
Set An Intention
Get quiet and listen to your own inner voice. She knows exactly what you need. What intentions might serve you the best in this time? Is it releasing a negative pattern? Doing some forgiveness work? Letting your inner-child out a bit more? Taking more time for you?
That evening, I set an intention in my journal. I wasn't even sure how it was going to happen. But it was set - I'd release the negative patterns I created, and learn how to forgive myself and others better.
If you don't have a journal yet, I highly suggest buying one that you'll enjoy writing it. I find writing in a journal a much more healing and reflective way to understand myself versus venting to a friend, which I tend to feel anxious and more heated afterwards.
Self-Care In The Morning
Inspirational Day Books: When I'm sleep deprived from baby feedings, I like to read even a few pages from inspirational books or blogs, or listen to podcasts that put me in the right mindset for the day, without too much effort. Some of my favorite books that have helped me towards the path of respectful parenting: No Drama Discipline, Siblings Without Rivalry, and No Bad Kids. They have deeply helped me to understand my children and how age appropriate and normal their behaviors are - even the things that really grind my gears!
Set Up An Invitation To Play: If you need a few minutes to yourself in the morning, try setting up an invitation to play at night while your children sleep, so that it's ready to go when they wake up. If you follow me on instagram, you'll see the simple invitations my 2 and 5 year old enjoy. This gives me time to read a few pages from my book, and even do a few stretches and sun salutations, and better yet - make coffee.
Write Your Appreciation: If I have a few extra minutes, I write down, or simply think about what I appreciate about my children, my husband, and life in general. This really puts me in a place of feeling blessed. Even when life feels hard, I can always appreciate my cozy bed, my children's good health, and my hubby's cute beard. :)
Self-Care In The Evenings
Get Deep In Your Journal: The evenings is when I designate a lot of time to journaling about what feelings are coming up for me, and reflecting on how my day went. If it's been a long time since you journaled, I find it so important in discovering myself, and often write down responses that surprise me and help me to grow. I also take some time to reflect on how I was disciplined as a child, and some childhood memories that might have created some triggers. The purpose is not to blame or judge your experiences or your parents, but rather to reflect and understand how family experiences shape the way we respond to situations as adults.
I provided a few journal prompts below which have helped me.
Get Lit: There’s something about a flame that is so calming, ya know? Light a candle, or a palo santo stick. If you’re up for it, write down any self-limiting thoughts, or negative feelings, and burn it under a full moon.
Take A Bath: Pour in epsom salt and your favorite essential oils and relax. Soak your hair too unless it’s going to be a good hair day tomorrow. Add in some Tibetan Bowl Healing Sounds and you’ll feeling really comforted and relaxed by bedtime.
Journal Questions For Self-Reflection
1. How did your parents discipline you as a child? Do you find yourself not wanting to discipline in certain ways because of what happened, or was it a good model for disciplining your own children?
2. How did your parents respond when you were happy and excited? How did they respond when you were angry, sad, or even distressed? Did each parent respond differently?
3. Think about some significant childhood experiences that might influence your behavior as an adult. Do you find yourself trying not to think about it? Did it influence any patterns in yourself that are difficult to change?
Self-Care In A Triggering Moment
Get To Know What Triggers You: I'm now much more aware when I can sense I'm feeling angry and resentful at my children's behavior, and it could lead to a triggering moment where I scold and overreact. I know when I wake up sleep deprived, or PMSing - or I'm a little anxious about the busy day ahead - that I need to connect with myself a bit more that day or I'll lose my head.
A Few Tips While In The Moment: In the moment I'm triggered, "nodding" rather than responding right away gives me a few extra moments to see more clearly the situation and my children. I also take a moment to envision myself as a therapist, rabbi, pastor - someone who can respond in an intentionally helpful way to my child's distress. This really helps me to become calm and confident, and sees their behavior as my golden opportunity to practice the respectful parenting skills I'm learning!
A Helpful Mantra: I often repeat the phrase to myself "I'm okay even if they aren't." When I know that I'm in a good place, I can better help them calm down and make good choices, even if it's simply stopping their negative behaviors and being present for their normal feelings that need to be expressed.
Sweet friend, I'd love to know: which parts of self-care for triggers speak to you? Do you see yourself trying any of these practices, or do you have your own routines to soothe you during times our children trigger us?
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With love and respect,