Monday, June 12, 2017

To the Mother of the Tantruming Child

To the mother of the tantruming child,
Hold strong, for even though the days seem long, they will not last forever.  I know you are tired, angry and full of guilt.  I know you wonder, “What have I done wrong?”  or “Why won’t my child just listen to me?”
You start the day fresh every morning with patience and then one sandwich cut into triangles instead of squares wrecks the day.  How about that t-shirt with the nagging tag that has your child in a yelling fit?  Or the time you say “no” that sets your child off so much so that you look at the clock counting the minutes until bedtime.  All of this has you judging your own parenting and fearing the next tantrum.  It’s what keeps you up at night and is the source of your many tears.  It’s what has you arguing with your husband because he made the situation worse or didn’t support you.  It’s what has you feeling like you are all alone and nobody understands what you are going through.
I promise you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  That mom that you think, “Wow, she has it all under control”, isn’t a better mother than you.  She is just better at hiding it.  We have all been there, maybe some of us more than others.  Be strong, for one day you will look back and see that all of this has made you a better version of yourself. The best part is the same can be true for your child.  This is all part of your story and your child’s story. As mothers, we want to skip ahead to the happy ending, but it’s all the trials in the journey along the way that shape us into who we will become.
How do I know all this?  My once tantruming child is approaching his teenage years.  Last week he was given an award in school and as I watched my son walk across the stage to receive this prestigious award, his younger years flashed back to me.  All the tantrums, tears, fighting, teaching moments, hugs, love, and guidance had brought him to this moment.  Back in the day, in the midst of the tantrums, I feared for his future, but here he is.  He overcame many obstacles, but the obstacles did not break him.  They made him into the young man he is today.  He is brilliant, strong, loving, and connected to his parents.  Know that what you are going through today does not define you.  It is part of your story, part of your child’s story, and one day you will look back and see that it made you both stronger.

By Juarline Stavrinos

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Mom’s Lesson in Letting Go

The weekend came that my husband was taking my son away for a retreat weekend. My husband is a great dad so why was I so anxious about it? I suppose like most moms I feel like I have to take care of everything, as though I am “Super Mom” who can fix any and every situation for my kids. This feeling often consumes me and if I'm being honest it is quite exhausting at times.
     I know I drove my husband crazy the week before they left. I must have repeated 1,000 times the things he needed to do to take care of our son as if he didn't know.  He gave me those looks like “You are being nutty”, but he knew my stress was coming from simply wanting everything to go well.         
   I started thinking there must be something wrong with me. My husband and son were going away for a nice weekend experience and my daughter was going to be away at a sleepover. What mom wouldn't rejoice in having a weekend to herself?
   They left Friday and I couldn't wait to hear from them to calm my mommy nerves. My husband finally texted me late that evening saying, "We got here ok but he's having a little bit of a tough time". I  jumped to call him and wanted to say just come home. My anxious thoughts were swirling telling me my fears were right. I had to STOP and BREATHE and get my thoughts together before I got on the phone with my son.
My son, like many boys, is a "mommy's boy". He seeks me out when he needs to know that everything is going to be okay. I got on the phone with him as he began to tell me how much he missed me and he wished I was there with him. My heart sank, but I knew that giving into my fears of wanting to make it all okay for him was taking the easy way out; it would not teach him anything. I told him I missed him too but was so excited to hear all about the awesome adventures he would be having with his dad. I told him that I loved him and knew he would love his time there. I told him to focus on the fun rather than things that were stressing him out.
I got off the phone and thought, “How can I expect him to do that if I can't do it myself?” I also thought about all the clients I work with and knew they too feel this way at times. This gave me the inspiration to stand in integrity of what I believe, of what I teach.  So I dropped my daughter off at her sleepover and went home to rejoice in the quiet time I would have to myself. I watched my favorite shows and took a long quiet shower. I applied a face mask and took the time to take care of me. I did so knowing and trusting that all would be okay for all of our "adventures".
I learned that by pushing past my fears of what could go wrong, I opened a space for us to learn all the wonderful things that went right. Trusting others to help me is sometimes hard for me to do. However, I learned that it is necessary for me so that I can be a better mom and teach my kids to trust themselves in the process. It's also so important for me to be able to take some of the pressure off myself that only I can "fix" everything.  What I learned that weekend is if I want to be the best mom I can be, I have to let go of having to be in control all of the time. I have to have faith and trust in my husband.  After all, one of the many things I love about him is what a great dad he is.   We work really hard together on our parenting and I need to believe that it has helped our children to be who they are - great kids!!

By Margarita Daskalakis

Monday, January 9, 2017

High Functioning Family’s Top Five Tips to Staying Calm

When our children are acting out or being defiant it is natural for us to be reactive and get angry.  Let’s face it, who wants to get yelled at, talked back to, or ignored by their own child.  I was raised with the “I have to teach them a lesson” parenting style.  I have noticed if I am flipping out it isn’t actually teaching them anything other than more disrespect, more anger and more annoyance.  I have gotten the best response and had the best teaching moments with my kids when I am calm.  I end up connecting with them.  We all take our responsibility and I leave feeling much better than when I lose it.  Staying calm is easier said than done, right?   The first step is to figure out what works for you.   Here are our favorite strategies:
  1. Breathe: We tell our kids to breathe all the time but we have to remember to do it as well.  It is actually the first step to getting you out of reaction mode because it gets you to stop. It will also get you to  think about how you want to respond to the situation.
  2. Talk to yourself:  I know this sound crazy but it works.  It helps get the focus off of what is triggering you.  I have said things like,  “You can do this, don’t fall into the trap, what’s my goal, what do I want to happen right now”.
  3. Walk away: Even if it’s for a second to regroup, just do it.  Walk in and out of the bathroom or your bedroom.  Just get away from the stressor for a moment.
  4. Ground yourself:  Too many times we get sucked into our children’s anger and frustration and we create a story around it.  Ever thought, “Why are you doing this to me?”.   When you ground yourself you take yourself out of the story and back into reality.  You do this by asking yourself, “What is really happening”. You don’t look at the story but instead you look at the action.  An example of this is, “They are purposely trying to delay doing their hw.”  (the story) to “They are moving around, they are fiddling with their pencil, they are talking” (what is actually happening).
  5. Laugh: Because sometimes you just have to.  We need to not take everything so seriously.  Sometimes laughing at the craziness of the situation helps us to let it go.

This doesn’t mean that our kids are going to magically be perfect or even know how to get themselves calm without some support from us.  It gives them good and appropriate behavior to model after when we use the strategies we want our kids to use as well.  Ever find yourself yelling at your kids to stop yelling?  When a problem arises take a moment to reflect on how you are reacting to the situation. Now ask yourself if that is how you want your kids to respond when something is stressing them out.  If the answer you come up with is “Yes” then awesome give yourself a pat on the back and keep up the great work.  If the answer is “No” it’s not a bad thing it simply means we get to learn and grow from it.  Reflection gives us the opportunity to learn what’s working and build it up. It also helps us learn what’s not working so we can change what we want and need in order to be calm parents.