Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do you have an emotional hurricane plan in place?

Living in Florida has its challenges during the months of August, September, and October. This year is no exception. Hurricane Fay (actually she never really made it to be a real hurricane) was like a house guest who wouldn’t leave. She hovered around the edge of Florida and the Atlantic for several days, just picking up the water and dumping it on us.

The first week of school was interrupted—each day was a guess as to whether or not my children would be home for the day or embarking on their next academic year. Monday, school was in session. Tuesday, school was closed. Wednesday was on for one child but off for the other child. Thursday, school was back on and then Friday, off again. I’m fairly confident nothing was accomplished this first week!

Friday I was on a phone coaching call with a client and realized as I watched the rain and wind from my office window that just as we have a hurricane action plan in my house, so do we as parents need to have an internal hurricane action plan. Prior to a hurricane threat, I check off my list to make sure we have working flashlights, water, non-perishable food, and the like. Likewise, there are several items that each of us needs to have in place to weather the storms of our children’s difficult behaviors. This list needs to include what it will take to keep us regulated and balanced in order not to slide into a place of internal dysregulation—an emotional hurricane plan.

I encourage you to make a written list of what you need to take care of yourself and how to keep from getting pulled into your child’s vortex of dysregulation during difficult moments. Such a list might include the following:

1. Committing to reading and listening to love-based parenting materials such as my books and my audios each day.
2. Eating properly.
3. Exercising regularly.
4. Using meditation or contemplative prayer daily to calm your nervous system.
5. Listening to your favorite music when you feel yourself slipping into a state of fear.
6. Practicing deep breathing, even when calm and regulated.
7. Using affirmations everyday to keep your mind on track.
8. Promising yourself to leave and take a time out, even when you feel justified in yelling and using controlling measures with your child.
9. Posting notes on your mirror or your refrigerator that will keep you in the right mindset. (something like: “It’s not about me.”)
10. Staying connected with friends or consciously creating a support system so you know you’re never alone.
11. Treat yourself to your favorite dessert or Starbucks once a week—just for you!

This list should be extensive. Identify what works for you. What do you need to be okay? Write down ideas. Don’t be restricted and judgmental…just brainstorm and get ideas on paper. Go back later and modify if needed. When you find yourself swirling in the midst of chaos, you will have a plan in place. You will have logical and rational thinking on paper to turn to when you are stressed and can’t think clearly at the moment.

The more you work to stay regulated, the more you will find yourself with a greater amount of patience, tolerance, and understanding to give to your children. In essence, the more you are in a loving state, the more love you have to give to your child. This is how children get better and this is how you end the negative feedback loops going on in your home.

Time for me to go and treat myself to my favorite dessert for the week! Dr. Pepper, here I come.


Anonymous said...

Being the adoptive mother of a very behaviorally challeging 8 year old I don't see how my changing ever helps break any cycles. Because no matter what we try, or how much therapy the child and family get there never is any lasting change with this child. My change doesn't stop the destruction of property, stealing, lying, false accusations, failure to take responsibility for one's own actions, poor impulse control, defiance, screaming, tantrums, antagonizing and the constant non stop talking! I own the book you speak of. You are too far away and too expensive for single working mothers to afford. We are stuck working with therapist that take state medical cards and believe play therapy works!

Brenda said...

Love the list!