4 Tips to help you take charge when life seems out of control.

Parents are handed a tiny human with their own agenda and pretty strong opinions out of the gate. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting and it only gets harder when your child is old enough to look you in the eye and shout, “No!”

Add challenging situations like massive winter storms, losing a job, racism, family health issues or coronavirus, which can all leave you feeling vulnerable and unprepared. The good news is when you apply a mindfulness lens you can learn to take charge of what’s meaningful and necessary without needing to control things that are not in your control.

Here are four simple tips to mindfully take charge when life seems out of control:

1. Dedicated time for connection vs. independence.

When I first got the news that my kids’ school would be canceled for three weeks straight, I panicked. I quickly learned after some trial and error that our daily cadence went much smoother when I create times for us to come together and times for us to play apart.

So now we typically eat a meal together and follow it with 20-40 minutes of focused instructional or learning activity time that fosters connection with my children. Then I say, “Okay, now it’s choice time! Would you rather play Roblox or go outside while I do my work for half an hour?” In an hour or so I join in on the games and transition back together for a snack and meaningful learning time before giving them an entirely different choice, “Play with your friends online or practice your basketball drills or martial arts?”

2. “Notice” when your kids are independent, responsible and cooperative.

Many unwanted toddler behaviors come in response to a child’s deep desire to have more control, and you can help them be in charge where it’s possible. While it may feel strange at first to talk to a child like an adult, I encourage you to try it and see what you discover.

Independence: “You are learning to do so many things all by yourself, aren’t you? I see you making your own sandwiches and cleaning up after yourself. You’re working hard!”

Responsibility: “Did you make your bed, tidy your room and place your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper? Thank you! That’s so responsible; you know just where they go, don’t you?”

Cooperative: “Awesome, I love how cooperative you are these days. I know it’s not always fun to brush your teeth or limit your time on playing on the computer, and your help is much appreciated.”

3. Learn together, naturally.

Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you need to teach your child like their classroom teacher would. Instead, at meals, we played alphabet or rhyming games. The children asked if they could make their own snacks, so I moved a selection of food to lower cupboards and shelves and discussed food groups so they could make a “balanced meal.” We “played math” using playing cards for a game of Go-Fish and Memory. My favorite natural learning opportunity was when they counted, sorted, compared, created patterns and traded their mini-M&M’s, while I did the dishes!

4. Reassure them.

Often times, parents see a rise in tantrums, bedtime call-backs, mealtime meltdowns and other unwanted behaviors during a time of instability or transition. The good news is that a little reassurance goes a long way. Let your child know that they are a priority in your life by carving out “Special Time.” Put down your agenda, set a 10-minute timer and let them pick an activity to do together. Additionally, you’ll want to remind your children that life may look, sound and feel different than it used to, but you love them just the same.

The great news is that there are tools to help parents take charge of big emotions and connect more deeply with their children. Using mindful parenting practices helps us to solve problems more efficiently and experience fewer breakdowns in general.

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