It is two o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and the children are getting restless. Running through your home and screaming at the top of their lungs as they leap from the backs of couches inevitably landing face first on the carpet. You’re wildly overwhelmed and just as you think you’ve gotten them settled down the children have grabbed every teddy, Barbie, and building block in sight to use as a weapon against you, sending imaginary bullets through the legs of their stuffed animals in your direction. Now, before you throw your arms up and scream “ENOUGH” or walk into the kitchen to bang your head exhaustedly against the wall, stop and breathe.
Whether you do child care in a center, out of your home, or are simply dealing with your own children, I’m sure you are no stranger to temper tantrums, out of control play, or the drowning urge to lose your cool. First, know that you are not alone. You are not the first, nor will you ever be the last parent or provider to reach your breaking point when attempting to control an unruly child. Here at Action for Children, we know a thing or two about kids and the joy they bring as well as the stress that comes along with raising them. For this reason I’m offering you a few simple ways to help manage your stress so that you can continue to offer love and support to the children in your life.
Take a deep breath. That’s right, it’s that easy. Many of us don’t realize how crucial deep breathing is to our health. Taking full deep breaths consciously and often, increases oxygen to all of the cells in the body as well as to the brain. According to Marcelle Pick, an OB/GYN NP from Women to Women, stress and anxiety affect our sympathetic nervous system by triggering our “fight or flight” responses. These responses are responsible for making us lose our temper usually causing us to shout and scream. They are fast reactions to temporary feelings that can often effect children long term. Deep breathing soothes this process by awaking our parasympathetic nervous system which communicates to our brain that everything is alright. This replaces anger with a sense of calm, restoring equilibrium and slowing our heart rate. If you can remember to breathe before you react then you can ensure that you’re handling a difficult situation properly with a level head.
Laugh often and deliberately. This technique is similar to deep breathing, but a lot more fun! I think we can all agree that laughter truly is the best medicine. But when was the last time that you had a good, long laugh? Often when we have reached our breaking point, we’re so exhausted that we give up and let our stress take over, sending us into a terrible mood, spinning us into negative cycles. A gloomy environment is no place for a child to be in. Children need to be uplifted and their growth must be supported in a positive manner. Dr. Kataria, a medical doctor turned yoga therapist, is a proud advocate for laughter saying that it, “is a unique exercise regime used to loosen stress and relieve anxiety.” Begin to practice the art of laughter by forcing yourself to laugh in face of un-laughable situations. Now, I know you must be thinking that I’m insane or that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it really works. Laughter is contagious and pretending to laugh ultimately results in real laughter, a sort of “fake it ‘till you make it” if you will. Working with laughter will make you happy and when you’re happy you’re better equipped to deal with young children.
Speak gently from a calm place. You’ve just walked into your living room and to your horror you find that the children have decided to redecorate by adding their own Crayola art work to your newly painted walls. Don’t panic. Resist the urge to scream or break down in tears, and focus. Practice breathing, walk away and have a little laugh if you need to, but don’t return until you’ve become calm. After you’ve successfully regained your emotional stability it’s time to have a talk with the little artists responsible for desecrating your walls. Yelling at children won’t necessarily get your point across to them. In fact, it’s more likely to encourage children to use yelling to solve their problems. Instead, be firm and grounded but completely calm. Look the child in the eyes and make sure they’re listening to you. It’s important to fully explain why things are or are not okay to do. Make sure you continuously ask them if they understand and show that you are really listening to their responses. The key is to emphasize communication in order to reach a mutual understanding. Everyone makes mistakes but children are much less likely to repeat an offense if they have a clear understanding of why what they did was wrong.
Having peace in your center or home doesn’t have to be a luxury. By following these simple steps you can begin to alleviate your own stress as well as that of the children who you look after. Action for Children cares about the growth and development of all children. We know that in order to promote healthy growth kids need a stable, happy environment to do it in. Although we are passionate about the wellbeing of children we are also concerned with the happiness of child care providers in homes and centers. This why we urge you to breathe, relax, and above all else laugh more!