By Alita Blanchard, Parent Coach
Like many parents, you may be coping with your own emotional pains, pandemic stress, anxiety, as well as a lack of support and village. You will inevitably crack some days and explode at your sweet child. Here is how to repair the disconnection on those tough days.
It would make absolute sense if you are at the end of your tether – impatient, overwhelmed, exhausted and, as such, your capacity to remain calm and connected is harder than ever.
The ongoing global pandemic is well and truly taking its toll. Many parents are in varying levels of stress and nervous systems are in an almost constant state of fight, flight or freeze.
All of this, on top of the everyday emotional experience of raising children, may have you in cycles of anger, sadness and disconnection. Every parent will “lose it” at their kids at some point – yell, scream, push, rage, ignore, threaten and punish.
What our children need
For children to thrive, they need to rest in the safety of a loving and connected relationship with their primary caregiver and feel the 4S’s of attachment – safe, seen, soothed and secure.
When you’ve had a tough day with your child, it can be easy to feel a lot of guilt and shame about how you have reacted to their often challenging behaviours.
The key to ensuring an ongoing secure and attuned connection on those tough days is to reconnect and repair the rupture.
This is so critical and it is what many parents missed out on as children. I have many mothers I work with that say “my parents never said sorry to me”. When you learn and practice this process of repair, you are not only modelling to your child how to do a true, healthy, connected apology (instead of some forced “say you’re sorry” that sadly is still expected of children), you are also healing parts of yourself that had never heard these repairs.
Ruptures are inevitable
A rupture is a break in connection with your child. Perhaps you yelled, screamed, ignored them, threatened them, said goodbye at daycare and left them crying, set a limit that upset them. This is life. It happens. You cannot meet your child’s every need, it is an impossibility.
A rupture without repair creates disconnection
If you don’t make a repair with your child, this creates a disconnection between you. Prolonged disconnection can lead to a low sense of self worth in the child, humiliation and shame.
A repair can be a simple practice
A repair is simply reconnecting with your child after an outburst, apologising, letting them know what was happening for you, what you should have done differently and letting them know you will try to do better next time.
You will need to calm and regulate yourself first
Lots of advice in the parenting space to find calm is simply “just take some deep breaths” but this doesn’t work for everyone, especially those with anxiety. Find what works for your nervous system as we all regulate our nervous systems differently. This alone can be quite a big journey of discovery.
- Shake your hands as if shaking off anger
- Breathe – focus on long slow exhales
- Walk outside – slow down, notice nature, listen for sounds
- Rub your finger along your lips
- Tapping on your collar bone saying
- “I am safe”
- Music – sing or angry dance
- Drink cold water or splash on face
- Cry in your room
- Scream into a pillow
- Call a listening partner / empathy buddy
What a repair might sound like:
- “I am sorry that I [yelled, screamed,
- hurt] you.
- I was feeling …[frustrated, tired,
- rejected, unheard etc].
- I should have….[taken space, gone outside, breathed, asked for some space].
- I apologise for my behaviour. Would you like to share your feelings?”
- Then just listen. Don’t justify or lecture. Just listen.
Why repairs can feel hard
- You may find it hard to process your anger
- You have deeper triggers and pain that need to be released
- You have shame and/or fear (about what you did or what people might think of you)
- No one said sorry to you as a child so you don’t think you should
Self compassion for when it’s all too hard.
This process can feel clunky and takes practice. Remember your humanity. Treat yourself as you would a good friend when it all gets hard. Self compassion is key, turn your kind words inwards to yourself.
And remember, no matter how tough the day got, or how bad the week seemingly was, YOU ARE ALWAYS ENOUGH.
Everything you are doing is enough.
Alita Blanchard helps mothers lessen the guilt and shame, release healthy anger, meet their own needs and build capacity for listening to their children’s feelings so they can feel more connected to themselves and their children. She creates a supportive space for mothers to feel heard and seen in the intensity of their motherhood journey.
Alita is a mother of 4 young boys (including a stillborn son Remy) on the NSW Central Coast. She is a trauma informed Conscious Parent Coach and Women’s Circle facilitator. She provides regular mothers circles, events, listening time and parent coaching programs – online and in person.