Peace is a word that comes up a lot at this time of year, and I can’t help but think it is something many moms and dads believe they won’t get for 18-22 more years. Yep, and that’s taking into account the statistics that say children leave their parents’ homes at an average age of 25 (long pause). Now that you have recollected yourself after possibly fainting from that information, it is easy to admit that this is way too long to wait. Luckily, you can create more internal peace, even in your busy holiday life (and trust me, your whole family will benefit from it). Here’s how—just remember the letters that form the word Peace.
P stands for Permission to deal with it later. At a recent parenting workshop, one mother asked, “What do I do when I can’t calm myself down? How do I talk to my daughter when I am just so angry?” The answer is easy: Don’t. It is better to walk away or even turn away from your child for a moment (if he cannot be left alone) to give yourself some time to calm down. It is completely okay to say, “I’m very upset right now, but we will talk about this later” or “Mommy needs a time out” (while closing your eyes or walking away), as long as you follow up when you are ready. Not only is this good modeling, showing time outs as an opportunity to calm down, it also gives you the chance to deal with discipline when you are ready to do so. You will be much more likely to be a kind and firm parent if you aren’t choosing discipline strategies in the heat of an angry moment.
E is for Exhale. Never underestimate the power of a slow, deep breath. In fact, try it out right now. Rather than inhaling, start by exhaling all the breath you have in your chest first (out your mouth, like you are blowing on hot soup). Now inhale through your nose slowly (like smelling the soup) and again exhale, breathing out for as long as you can. Counting to about 5 or saying “You can do this” in your head while you exhale may help. No matter if I am around a stressful relative or exhausted by the fifteenth question from a child, with about 5 slow breaths I feel more calm and collected, ready to take on the next thing.
A is for Accept Yourself. According to research (Jennifer Hawthorne, Change your Thoughts, Change your World, 2009) the average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day with approximately 80 percent of those thoughts being negative. This negative thinking contributes to feeling stressed and even physical responses to stress such as headaches and trouble sleeping. If this sounds like you, try a flip-flop. Use self-talk to your benefit instead by speaking in ways that accept your humanity and limitations, and encourage your best efforts. Say upbeat things to yourself such as “I am a good mom/dad,” “I did some hard work today,” “You’re doing the best you can,” “You can do this,” or “This too, will pass.”
C is for Care—specifically Self-Care. You are likely the caretaker of many others and without some self-care, life can feel really draining. In order to sustain the care you give to others, allow yourself some personal treats. Fill up your own “cup” before you seek to give to everyone else. This could mean treating yourself to a massage or coffee date with a friend, but it can also be simpler. Take the baby out on a walk so you can clear your mind, or coordinate with your spouse so you each take a weekend morning to sleep in.
E is for Eliminate. Eliminate the extra stressors that you don’t need. Especially during the holidays, it can be easy to get caught up in all the things you feel you “should” do as a parent. Whether it’s the request to be in the Christmas play, toys we feel we “have to” buy before they are out of stock, invitations to parties, or pressure to have the best decorated home, don’t forget you always have the option to say no. It is okay to simplify what you plan to do this holiday season. In the end, having your family enjoy time together is what matters most. So, if you don’t do the play this year, the house isn’t decorated like last year, or you say no to a couple of events, it will be just fine. Consider how you can simplify your expectations for a good holiday and you will be a more peaceful mom or dad because of it.