I am constantly trying to create a safe space for my children to learn how to regulate their emotions and calm their nervous systems. But what happens when you as the parent are having a hard time calming your own nervous system? Whether you had a bad day at work or one of the kids has asked for a drink one too many times, it’s easy to have an unconscious reaction that does not fit the situation. My husband and I have discovered a really powerful hack. We will put the parent who is overstimulated in time out. The parent time out has been a game changer in our family and here is why.
Time out is not a punishment! We are lovingly offering one another a few minutes to regroup and take a breather. This break allows the other one a chance to decompress and not take their bad day out on the rest of the family.
Big Feelings: When one of my kids is having a big reaction to something minor not going their way, it is a signal that they need something. I’ll go through a laundry list of needs they might have. Is she tired, hungry, bored, needing downtime, or craving connection? It’s easy to put ourselves on the back burner as a parent. Sometimes we need our loved ones to point out that self-care is important. This is a great opportunity to ask the same questions for ourselves. Is there something specific that I need to love myself well, today?
Setting a Boundary: By encouraging one another to pause when overwhelmed, it sets a boundary of how we speak to one another as a family. We try not to take our big feelings out on those we love or say things we don’t mean out of anger.
Modelling Self Care and Saying “Sorry”: This is a great opportunity to model to your child HOW to take time to regroup. Accidently overreacted at your child? (We’ve all been there.) This gives you an opportunity to tell your child “I’m sorry. Mommy had a bad day, I needed a minute to calm down.” We are not infallible as parents. This gives us an opportunity to show our kids it’s ok to have human moments.
I’m extremely aware of the fact that not all parents have this luxury of the parent time out. Whether you are a single mom, work different hours as your partner, or are a stay-at-home parent, it is not always feasible to take a breather when over stimulated. I do want to encourage you love yourself well when you have the opportunity to do so!