I listened to the Beyond Consequences Toddler audio CD and the topic of
"how parents can learn to self-regulate" came up. I became VERY
emotional. I was sobbing uncontrollably. My reactions to my child's
negative behaviors are so immediate and ingrained. How do I get past
this? I can't seem to find a good therapist in my area that understands
the depth of my fear.
A: A child living at a high level of stress and fear has the ability to open up a parent's own unresolved traumatic memories. While we resist the child's ability to open up
our own dormant trauma, the truth is that this dynamic
|our child brings to us is an incredible gift in our midst.
Working through these memories and experiences takes first courage, then the right resources, and lastly commitment. Finding the courage within you is the key. It is scary to allow these past fears to come up to the surface after working so hard for so many years to keep them buried and "under control."
While individual therapy can help to work you through your pain from the past, sometimes it takes more intensive work. Other ways to help you stay regulated include the following:
1. Create a support system around you. You need someone to turn to when you get dysregulated. Having someone simply listen to you, without trying to solve it all for you, can be golden.
2. Devote time every day to contemplative prayer or meditation. Creating a time to calm your nervous system everyday is critical to your well-being.
3. Take care of yourself by working to find balance in your life. Objectively look at pieces in your life that are creating more stress. You have permission to make the changes you need in your life, even if others do not agree with you. Be sure to make good nutrition and exercise a requirement of your lifestyle.
4. Recognize that it is not your child's responsibility to love you. This is your responsibility. Love and forgiveness are the most powerful regulatory "tools" we have as human beings.
|5. Address any marital issues that have not been resolved.
If your spouse is not loving you and relating to you in the way you
need him/her, than you may subconsciously be looking for this through
your children. Find a marriage support group or seek marital therapy if
6. Develop a list of resources that help you find peace. This may include such things as a bubble bath, listening to classical music, Monday night football, team sports, journaling, sketching, knitting, etc.
7. Take responsibility for past relationships that are in tension, such as with a parent or a sibling. Rise above the fray and apologize, ask for forgiveness, and let the past be the past. Remember that this person may not be in a place to reciprocate a similar response but you have done what you need to in order to move forward in your own life. You deserve to be able to move out of the past and it is your responsibility to move into a place of love within your life in the present and in the future.
8. Breathe. The quickest way to calm yourself in the moment is through breathing. It may seem like such a simple tool, but in times of stress, we typically stop breathing. Holding our breath only serves to exasperate and increase our stress level. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight. This is known as 4-7-8 breathing. Oxygen is always available to you and it is the most effective way to settle a nervous system.
9. Take a time out. If you get to a point of complete overwhelm and know that you are about to say something negative or act threatening to your child, give yourself permission to take a time out. Let your child know you are not leaving for good and that you are just going to your room for five minutes to calm down in order to be a better mommy or daddy.
10. Forgive yourself. Most importantly, it takes forgiving yourself for the way you have acted in relationship with your children in the past. For my own healing process, it took digging deep within me to forgive myself for being the most dysregulated mother on the planet. We come into our parenting roles with programs from our past. These programs put us in a place to act in a way that is based on our past experiences. Healing happens in this very moment by forgiving yourself and making a commitment to act differently next time. The only moment you have with your children is now, so letting the past be the past is the best placed to find the regulation you are seeking.
You have it in you to make your world work for you and your family. It takes courage, tenacity, and 100% commitment. Anything is possible and I encourage you to keep pressing on with the vision of hope, healing, and peace.
|Heather T. Forbes, LCSW|
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2, and Dare to Love, & Help for Billy