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10 Essential Parenting Strategies for When Life's Got You Down

Parents can have periods of plain old “blah," where life can become overwhelming and simply beat you down regardless of how much you love and cherish your kids.

By
Cheryl Butler,
Episode #344

When I finally overcame six incredibly long years of infertility and became a mother 22 years ago, I naively thought that my most difficult days were behind me. Eight kids, three with developmental delays and significant learning difficulties later, and I wouldn’t trade my life or my challenges for anything, I can openly admit that there have been plenty of times, more than I can count in fact, that my parenting journey has been draining and—dare I admit it—uninspiring. 

Whether it be financial struggles, having to deal with defiant children, losing a job, loved one, or a relationship with your partner, or just feeling exasperated from constantly juggling work, home, and kids, it’s hard to stay grounded and keep on plugging along.

Mighty Mommy has experienced plenty of moments like these, so here are 10 essential parenting strategies that can help turn things around when life’s got you down.

Strategy #1:  Accept and Let It Go

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been able to give myself is letting go of things I have absolutely no control over. Worrying about what the future may hold for our family, what other people might be saying about us, or if something bad is going to eventually happen to ourselves or someone we love is one sure way to take a bad situation and make it even worse.  A study done by Dr. Walter Calvert, funded by the National Science Foundation, revealed that:

30% of our worries are about events in the past

40% of the things we worry about never happen

Only 8% of our worries are real, legitimate issues

You might even consider making a list of everything you don’t have control over. These are the things you can stop worrying about. Then—either rip the list up, burn it or visualize handing those items over to your higher power and letting them go. Then focus on what you can control, like taking better care of your health, or how you react to others who might aggravate you.  Turn the focus around to something that you can take charge of.

Strategy #2: Find Your Happy Place

One of the easiest things you can do in the moment to point your thoughts in a more positive direction is to go to your “happy place.”  Most of us have such a place and when we physically can’t be there, we close our eyes and dream about being there. It might be a tropical beach where you are sitting beneath a palm tree in a comfy beach chair with your toes submersed in cool sand as you lazily watch the waves lap against the shore. Or maybe it’s sitting at the park watching your kids run happily all over the playground while you enjoy your favorite hot beverage. It could be someplace as simple as being curled up on your living room couch reading a great book in your coziest pair of PJs. Whatever image works for you in helping you to relax and unwind, go there as frequently as you need to until you’re ready to “get back at it” and face the reality of what’s happening in your life presently.  See Also:  6 Ideas for a Parenting Bucket List

Strategy #3: Practice Being Positive

For lots of parents, summer is the single most upbeat season of the year. Life seems carefree and, dare I say it, fun! But that can all change in a heartbeat when we realize that structure and endless commitments are about to take hold when the new school year arrives.  That doesn’t have to be the case if you learn to use my favorite parenting tool of all, one that can easily get shoved to the bottom of the toolbox on a regular basis—a positive attitude.

I know from experience that my kids respond to the tone set by myself and their father. If one of us is having a bad day, my kids get tense and usually follow suit.  But when we lighten up, joke around, and find something positive to focus on in the midst of fall chaos, it teaches our children to do the same. Practicing to be positive is definitely a choice you make as a person and a parent. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I received years ago from my mom was that no matter what, try and share a smile with your kids every day. It’s an instant way to make them feel loved and it will help you readjust your mindset as well.  See Also:  5 Ways to Speak Positively to Children

Strategy #4: Don’t Cover up the Pain

Often when we’re dealing with a tough break in life, one of our first reactions is to either run away from our feelings or pretend it’s no big deal. That’s exactly how I handled my many years of infertility—I became quite an actress and lead people to believe that I was coping just fine and that it was no big deal if we had a baby or not. Eventually I saw a therapist who helped me realized how detrimental it was to bury my feelings. Instead, I learned that when pain, whether physical or emotional, shows up, it’s much more healthy and helpful to mindfully notice it, allow it to just be there, and let the pain move through you. So, when a painful situation shows up at any point in your life while raising your family, take the time to stop and notice how you are feeling and rest in that moment until it passes.

Strategy #5:  Refuel Your Tank

Today’s kids live very full and scheduled lives. While there is nothing wrong with that, it’s also important to learn that we all need down time on a regular basis to recharge our batteries.

Get into the habit of incorporating “time for self” each and every week for all members of the family. Let your children see you lying on the couch reading or sitting at the table doodling. Take walks at the beach or in the park together. When our kids and other family members see us creating regular “me time” it teaches them the important lesson that it is not selfish to step away from our harried schedules to refuel our tanks, but rather that it’s vital to our overall healthy well-being.

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