What is it? We're facing the holidays wrapped in a pandemic. More than ever we want the time to be harmonious and joyful. And it will be. But it's hard to be peaceful all of the time especially with so much energy and expectations...and kids. When children of any age are pushing our buttons or just getting excited when we aren't in the mood for being excited, our reasoning brain gets hijacked. We end up in that “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, and our child begins to look like the enemy. The child’s perspective no longer matters, and our agenda shifts from supporting or teaching our children to winning the battle. And that can become lashing out with threats or punishment. ("Santa's not going to come if you keep that up!" "That's it - no car for you!") How to Address It? The Pause is a tool to keep us from moving into reactivity. It allows us to halt the response until we are calmed down and can access the rational brain. No one says it better than Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning: Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. We just have to capture that space. Remembering the fear or sadness on my kids’ faces when I yelled or got mad still breaks my heart. Start now is all I can say. It doesn't have to be hard: a little bit of awareness and practice go a long way. Strategies to Start Here are the two siimplest things to do:
Close your mouth. Bite your tongue. Say the alphabet to yourself. There is plenty of opportunity to say what you are about to say – but give yourself a chance to evaluate it first, rather than regretting it later.
Breathe. It is a wonder tool. In through your nose and out through your mouth. When you breath this way, it activates the parasympathetic (nose) and the sympathetic (mouth) nervous system at the same time. This acts like a pattern interrupt that neutralizes the habitual response from your body. If your body calms down, your mind will follow. Also, if you’re focused on the breathing you can’t talk!
GOT A MINUTE? There is bound to be an opportunity during the next frantic few days. If there's not, yay you!! If so, try to find that space as you gear up for that fight, flight, or freeze moment - if you catch yourself, that's 80% of the battle. Then just bite that tongue or start breathing. Watch what happens around you. If it's positive, give yourself a pat on the back; that will be the first step to wiring in a new habit and a new you. Happy Holidays!