Sue Atkins of Positive Parents gives some tips on how to reduce your stress levels this Christmas.
Christmas, although a time of great joy and celebration, can also be the most stressful of times for even the best of parents, with the family home chaotic and often besieged by visitors. Throw into the mix over excited children who have weeks to sit around at home and the situation can quickly spiral out of control.
Keeping your children calm and entertained will be the key to helping keep the peace and getting through the Christmas holiday period with as few hiccups as possible. But before you begin to think about your children make sure you give yourself some time each day to relax and unwind. It is important with so much going on around you that you make time for yourself, keep your energy levels up and remain positive in order to keep on top of everything – successful parents will look after themselves as well as their kids, setting an example of behaviour that their children can look up to and imitate.
Here are a few practical tips to help you and your children have the happiest Christmas ever:
– Make time for both you and your kids: provide times of the day where you will be together and uninterrupted (don’t even answer the phone!). Similarly make sure that at least once a week you give yourself enough time to do things you want without distractions.
– Organise group and family activities to keep your children as active as possible, such as making Christmas cards, decorations or wrapping presents.
– Homework: provide your children with some options as to when they should do their homework. If possible try to get them to complete this early in the holidays as the later they leave it the less motivated they will be.
– Give your children a sense of routine, keeping to weekly events. You could also provide them with some added responsibilities such as some regular housework. They could then complete this in return for being allowed to watch the TV for a little while extra etc. This will give you a little respite and reminds your children that holidays are not simply an excuse to do nothing at all.
– When disputes break out between siblings try to remain calm as this helps to prevent their squabbles escalating. Take them both to one side and explain the behaviour that you do want to see very clearly and specifically. Focus on the positive things you see and hear and give praise when your child does something you want to see – no matter how small this may be.
Bringing up children isn’t always easy. Many challenges, frustrations, and changes are involved in raising happy, confident, well-balanced children – tomorrow’s adults.
Eliminating stress takes time. You just have to experiment with lots of different ways until you find something that works for you or a combination of methods that suits you – acupuncture, aromatherapy massage, working out, having a candlelit bath, watching TV, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, or chatting to a friend are just some ways to help you feel in control of your life.
Stress management has now become a routine part of large businesses as they have realised that handling stress positively increases efficiency and well being. So start this week to take notice of where you are becoming overwhelmed or feeling stressed and write down the things that make you feel out of control and anxious. This will help you to notice a pattern and will help you to make some small changes that will make a big difference in your life.
I remember the first time I did this exercise as it was a bright, sunny, early Saturday morning. I had been up since 5.20 and by 5.45 am we had already taken out the paint pots, painted a rainbow, castle and a teddy bear, played with the play-doh, and the building blocks and I thought …… “Help it’s going to be a long day!!”
Remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way!
Overwhelmed and stressed are two words many parents use to describe their situations when they come to me for coaching and although feeling slightly stressed is often described as normal, you must tackle your parenting challenges head on if you want to feel generally more in control of your life– don’t let stress take control of you.
Take some time here to think of the benefits that taking control of your stress will give you and write them all down as this gives you clarity and motivation to make a positive change. Remember that stress drains your energy and always has a huge negative impact on you and your family. If you run on empty for too long, you run out – your family needs you to be energised, upbeat and happy.
Start to manage your stress by taking energy breaks and making dates with yourself. Write down a list of all the little things you can do to replenish your batteries, put back a spring in your step, which makes your eyes shine and has you singing in the shower again! Is it enjoying a cup of green tea, sitting down quietly for 15 minutes in the kitchen, or taking a long, hot bath?
Just become more aware of taking time out for yourself each day, each week and each month. And make a promise to yourself to do these little things on a regular basis. Put some dates in your diary so you get into the habit of making these treats an everyday occurrence.
I do a lot of work during my workshops on helping parents learn how to get into a positive parenting mindset or attitude as it’s all about how you feel that makes the biggest difference in your family relationships.
The following exercise is just one way to take back control when you feel that everything is spiralling out of control:
Relax and breathe deeply and slowly.
Allow your shoulders to drop. Allow your whole body to relax.
Mentally give yourself a gift – the gift of being peaceful and relaxed now.
Imagine what you really want to achieve.
Imagine what you can see and hear and imagine how you feel.
Turn the colours of the picture up brighter and the sounds you can hear louder, and make the feelings more intense.
Really step inside your picture and enjoy the warm feelings of joy and success, pleasure and pride. See yourself smiling. Feel content and happy knowing that you have done a good job.
Make the sounds louder, the colours brighter and the feelings stronger and bring the pictures and sounds and feelings really close to you, and then clench your fist tightly.
As you clench your fist, remind yourself of this wonderful experience.
Breathe deeply and slowly, savouring, remembering, and relishing these wonderful feelings, sounds and pictures.
Breathe deeply and become aware of the sounds in the room.
Feel your feet on the ground and your body on your chair. Start to come back to where you are and now and open your eyes.
You can have this wonderful feeling anytime you want it – when your kids won’t brush their teeth or tidy their bedrooms. You can have it when you’re late, tired or grumpy. You can choose to have it anytime you need it. Simply clench your fists and the feeling returns to you easily.
A simple physical change you can make is to just start smiling. This may sound crazy, but merely smiling actually sends a message to your brain that makes you feel better straight away as it releases endorphins which make you feel good. Try it for yourself and see the difference!
So the next time you feel everything is getting on top of you don’t panic or get angry, simply start by pressing your own internal pause button, taking three deep slow breaths in and out and feel yourself getting grounded and centred. And remember to be patient with yourself, learning new ways to cope and breaking old habits takes time.
Always keep the big picture in mind, parenting is not always easy but the rewards and happiness you get in the long run always make it all worth while and remember you are creating the memories that last a lifetime.
“It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.” Joyce Maynard
Sue Atkins is a Parent Coach, former Deputy Head with 22 years teaching experience, mother to two teenage children and is an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer trained by Paul McKenna. She has written many books on self esteem, toddlers and teenagers and has a collection of Parenting Made Easy Toolkits available from her website. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the black and yellow series published worldwide and a Judge for the National Family Week Family of the Year Competition. To receive her free newsletter bursting with practical tips and helpful advice from toddler to teen log onto http://www.positive-parents.com.