Yes like every other parent on the planet, I too struggle with my daily triggers. Triggers are those situations or actions that really tick me off and drive me up the wall. Thankfully I am learning everyday new ways to bust those triggers and live a calmer life with my family. In this post I will share some of the work-around solutions I used, and have worked out for my family and me wonderfully;
1. Be Conscious; this is the simplest way. I get triggered every-time my daughter cries, it just provokes me. Being conscious that this triggers me enabled me to dig deep into the reasons behind it and find out that it comes from childhood baggage that I was carrying around and projecting on my own kids. This was enlightening and empowering in a sense that it supported me in making different choices that were more in line with my values towards my family
2. Rehearsal; You know how you rehearse before a presentation or try a your dress 2 days before the party, just to make sure that everything is working right? Well same thing goes with triggers. Once you’ve known what ticks you off, take the time to prepare yourself to “how” do you want to respond rather than react when that same them happens. Whether in a journal or a mental note or even a conversation with a coach, rehearsals are key for managing triggers
3. Post-hearsal; This is magical, especially when there’s guilt associated with the matter. I would simply go take note of (1) what happened, (2) Why did I do so? (3) Why am I upset I reacted this way? and (4) How would I like to react the next time?. What’s amazing about this, is how it enables me to understand myself better and recap the whole situation again in my head and point out to my calmer self whatever un-reasonable judgments or guilt my tense brain is trying to push in
4. Workarounds; When my daughter uses cups or dishes late at night after I have finished all the dishes, this triggers me a whole lot. So we worked out a system in our house, where she gets to wash whatever she uses after dinner and onwards. To me that was a great workaround for my trigger- it’s also a great way to cultivate sharing and empathy around our house
So these are my magical tips for working with triggers. What are yours? And how do they workout? Would love to hear about them.
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I get asked a lot by parents (and my own children sometimes) about how do I keep my calm, and though there are a lot of materials and articles out there that bombard parents about tools and techniques on how to keep your calm in my opinion most of them take a limited perspective to keeping your calm; I truly believe that there is a deeper perspective to our calmness at home. And this is what I intend to share in this blog post.
So if you are really longing for a sustainable approach to keeping your calm (not a quick fix), willing to do what it takes and believe in holistic change then this blog is for you!
I use to really struggle with keeping my calm when I was younger, actually I was the defiant kid in our home, I was always the one with the loudest voice and that slams the door but then eventually as I grew up somehow all this anger and resentment vanished and I was able in time to receive my first daughter with a much calmer self. Which at the time was very difficult as I wasn’t ready for a baby and this all came as surprise to me.
At a certain point I decided to examine what happened. I had the intention to share my findings with others around me. This was a tough exercise but also exciting as I was fascinated with my findings and how it concurred with a lot of the parenting and self development stuff I later on in life learned and now advocate for. So for those of you who can’t wait to know, here is the list;
Life Purpose; this is the answer of questions like; why are you alive?, what will your legacy be?, what do you want people to say in your memorial about you? What kind of a parent to do you want to be? What kind of a family do you want to lead?
Answering these questions enable you to have clarity about what is meaningful to you in life, and why are you doing certain things and not doing others, it also gives you direction in a sense that it channels some of your emotions, thoughts in the right direction. Like for example; when I use to stay home with my daughter and miss important business trips, I still felt good about myself and had no (or very little) thoughts about being cornered, or how life is unfair – the fact was that having the clarity that my daughter matters more and that this is a choice not something that I have to do, made me feel good about myself and in a sense more connected with my daughter. Having a life purpose also gives you a perspective on what is your standpoint on matters of life; parenting, family, peace, love, guns…and whatever else. Your life purpose is your ruler that you can benchmark everything in life against and decide what do you want to do. This in a sense limits (or contributes to limiting) the confusion, frustration and mourning in your life. Which contributes to you being calmer.
My advice, do yourself a huge favor and set a time aside to really give this time to yourself and write it down. Make sure you go back to it, review it and amend it as you grow.
Know your values; yes, this is a continuation to the first point but it is important too. When you know your values, you become grounded within yourself, your values becomes one of the support mechanisms in your life. For example; I spent long amounts of time having conversations with my daughter about different things, why things are happening, why is she feeling in a certain way, how is this touching others around us, and lots of other things including things like her relationship with her step dad or step brothers and sister – it is very draining, time consuming and sometimes frustrating when these conversations don’t go as I have hoped – and I question myself sometimes, why am I not taking a shorter cut and why am I choosing to do so; my values always come up for me in these times as a reminder of the deeper needs I hold towards having a solid embracing relationship with my daughter. This gives me ease, peace and almost always calms me down.
It also works the other way around. Like when a situation is vague, your values come in handy to clarify matters. For example; for years and years I would allow my daughter to not sleep in her pj’s, it really annoyed me sometimes (specially if the clothes were nice, expensive or new) but then I always brought it back to my values and weighed which matters more in this specific situation, i.e. freedom of choice or preserving our belongings; somehow in this specific situation it was always freedom of choice. This made me calmer because I had clarity.
Define & Do your own thing(s); what is it that you enjoy doing? What is something that you really have hoped to learn, know more about? To me this was parenting, child development and the non-violent approach to life. As soon as I defined it, I started learning about it even though I was working as a management consultant back then and had nothing to do with this domain of life. Learning about this made me feel fulfilled, inspired and happier – being in this state made me calmer as a person in general and enabled me to deal with things in my life from a state of love and fulfillment rather than from a place of frustration or emptiness. And no matter how convinced you are that you don’t have the time, I invite you to find the time and celebrate having it. Use creative ways to do so that will be inexpensive and less time consuming. Examples are; online education and home products or do it yourself stuff – this works too.
These are my core, and deeper ways of being calm but there are other, more operational, reasons that contribute to my “calm” state at home and in dealing with my kids;
Know your triggers; to all of us parents, there are certain things that tick us off. Whether it is dropping water while filling a cup or messy spaces, there’s always this thing that just gets our blood pressure up. My golden advice is KNOW IT & PREPAPE FOR IT. Here are some simple steps of how; 1- journal periodically to discover the pattern of which behavior ticks you off. 2- Reflect on why it does so. This is particularly important because it will help you know whether it is just the habit of doing so or is it something you really care about or maybe it is something that you need to heal from/deal with to move on. 3- Write down in a journal or do a mental note on how you’re going to react the next time it happens. Include everything, what are you going to say or not say, do, and facial expression. Believe me this works!
Empathy; in my view empathy is to understand the other person’s experience “with” your heart not your mind. Try to understand what’s going on with your child at any given moment, practice doing so in moments where you are not triggered so it would slowly become more natural for you to empathize with your child at stressful times. Empathizing with your child will in most cases, maintain your calm self towards your child. Here are some examples that you might find helpful in guiding you;
Example1: If your child is wandering around in the supermarket and is dropping, touching and pushing things around; it might be his need for play, engagement or shared purpose. Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was in his/her place now?
Example2: If your child just hit a child; it might be he/she is so hurt that the other kid took his toy from him and he doesn’t have another way to express his/her frustration. How would you feel if someone took something precious from you without permission? What if you have not been taught how to speak up for yourself?
Example3: Your child goes on a tantrum because you just switched off the TV and asked him/her to go to bed; maybe he/she is not ready yet, his/her need for choice, autonomy or maybe even gentleness are alive for him/her right now. Then ask yourself; how would I feel if my (let’s say husband) walked by, switched off the TV and asked you to go to bed? (I know you’re probably turning red just reading the questions!).
Exercise & Food; Yes! And we all know it. Though I am personally struggling with these two, but reality is when I exercise I feel better and calmer and when I don’t it becomes harder to feel that way. The same goes for food; if I just ate a combo meal and feel heavy I am less likely to be open and receptive to random behavior done by kids and I am generally grumpier. An important point to mention here is calming foods and drinks; Berries (all kind), bananas, Apples, oranges, whole grain and fish are magical!
Spirituality; Stay centered. Whatever this means to you, the point is to do it. Be it through praying, yoga, spiritual practice group or self-meditation choose what works and commit to it. Staying in connection with yourself is key for your overall wellbeing and it definitely keeps you calm and centered. I pray, read and give gratitude. These are things that work for me. To decide what works for me, I literally had to try everything and I am still trying stuff till this day.
Like every blog I write, this list is my sharing and is by no means a conclusive list. In fact what could work for you could be different in many ways than what’s above but as always my hopes that you find in my sharing what contributes to more peace, love and connection between you and your family.
Marwa Advocates for freedom, peace, and building compassionate homes.