If you don’t struggle as a parent then you must be doing something wrong. Or that is what I like to tell myself on the occasion. Okay, weekly. Maybe make that daily. Child therapist or not, I struggle. In fact because I do carry that clinical license I feel I shouldn’t be struggling at all. I am the professional. I should have all the answers. This kind of thinking only deepens my well of guilt and wrongdoing. When it comes to my own kids I am just like the rest of you. I find myself questioning and second guessing. And I go back to the drawing board again and again.
It is one thing to help another child or family and it is an entirely different sport to see your own players working against the team. So I call in my coaches just like you and I get some game day direction for how this parenting thing is going to play out. And then I think and I strategize and I think some more. But what happens with that is sometimes I find myself ruminating on the negative – on what I have done wrong – or on what may be wrong with my child. I get nowhere good really fast. What I have come to learn is this kind of thinking just isn’t cutting it for me. Staying focused on the difficulties in a relationship with one child or all three only feeds the negativity.
In steps my cognitive behavioral therapy background – I need to change the way I am thinking to change the way I feel and behave. So what did I do? I did what any sensible mother would do; I headed to Target. But I actually had a reason for going this time. I bought a journal. And I am going to force my brain to highlight a different train of thought.
Every night before I go to bed I write one positive interaction between me and each of my 3 children for that day. It takes only minutes and I tell you what – it works. It completely reframes my day. Suddenly a bad day with one kiddo has been turned around by the almost forgotten sweet conversation we had earlier in the morning before things really got gnarly. Not only has journaling changed my outlook on my parenting skills, I think it will be a really sweet reminder for my small children when they are grown. They can look back at it all and remember the beautiful small moments we nearly forgot to grab hold of. And I can look back and realize maybe I wasn’t such an angry monkey after all. I too had pieces of patience and gentleness and love wrapped around my daily internal battles.
So if you want to change the way you parent you have to start by changing the way you think about your parenting. Take the time and jot it down in a journal. It’s a decision that will remind you of your strengths and softness amid the chaos.
Reducing anxiety and chronic stress can be as easy as drawing a bath. The antidote: magnesium in the form of Epsom Salt. 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Once an abundant nutrient found in our soil, magnesium has rapidly declined in our environment leaving many doctors and scientists to believe that all people should be supplementing this essential mineral. Magnesium is necessary for proper cognitive function. In other words, if you want your brain to work as it should you must ensure your diet includes magnesium.
What depletes the body of magnesium?
- Lack of sleep
- Heavy sweating
- Alcohol consumption
- Carbonated beverages including soda
- Some prescription medications
- Diets high in refined sugar
What does deficiency look like in the body?
- Frequent headaches/migraines
- Tingling in the extremities
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of appetite
- Increased anxiety
- Symptoms of depression
Before you supplement with magnesium you should consult your family doctor. As for a bath for children ages 6 and up, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of Epsom Salt to warm water and soak for a minimum of 15 minutes. For adults, add 1 cup to 2 cups to warm water. Do not soak for more than once or twice a week as you can overdo magnesium in the body.
The physical and mental relaxation from an Epsom Salt bath will be felt immediately. Epsom salt is excellent in relaxing muscles once tense from a day’s worth of stress/anxiety. It’s best to enjoy before bed as you will be sure to get a good night’s rest. If insomnia is something you or your child struggle with: follow up with a nice cup of chamomile tea. Sweet dreams my friends!
I don’t love baths. How can I eat my magnesium?
- Unsweetened cocoa powder and cocoa nibs
- broccoli, turnip greens
- spinach, swiss chard, bok choy
- collard greens
- pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews
- raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
- coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves.
- wild caught salmon
Hug it out. No really. Hug it out. There is a simple reason why we crave human contact and affection – it calms us. A hug from a safe, caring adult sets off a cascade of biology that recalibrates our child’s body. The same works for teens and adults alike. Humans are wired for real-life social connectivity something we have less of in the era of social media.
We physically need healthy touch and this is why:
- It reduces stress.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It bonds us to each other.
- It can ease depression.
- It can support your immune system to reduce illness and infections.
- It can help the body fight feelings of lethargy.
How does this happen?
Physical touch (hugging, a pat on the back, a friendly handshake) helps the body increase levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes feelings of love and relaxation. We actually have a biochemical response to hugging. Isn’t it amazing how the human body works?
Now how does this apply to our children and teens who may be struggling emotionally?
We hug it out! If a small child is having a tantrum – emotionally check yourself first before you respond and then go in for a hug. A hug will allow your child to let go of all of his/her big, scary feelings. As a result, the floodgates may open but that is what you want. Tears also reduce stress!!! Two-for-one here, people!
According to research, hugs also increase the release of dopamine and serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and elevated mood. Just when we think human behavior is complicated and impossible, science lets us know we need to simplify and get back to basics. No tricky parenting techniques needed. Just a good old-fashioned hug.