The Parenting Hangover
All parents have those “cringe worthy” moments—those moments with our kids that we wish we could take back. A moment where you snapped at them or said something you realize you didn’t want to say. Or perhaps it was a moment where you didn’t do something that you regret, like missing your son’s winning soccer goal because you were busy talking on the phone. Whatever it is, we all have those moments, which are subsequently followed by the “parenting hangover”, or that reactionary feeling of guilt. What do we do with a parenting hangover when we find we’re under its cloud? How can we cope with it?
1) Rewind the tape back to the cringe worthy interaction. If you were to pause the tape (or blu ray) of this memory in various places, what would you see? What was going on in your environment? Was it loud and overstimulating? Were you in a hurry to get your child out of the door? What was going on right before the incident? If you can rewind back to the incident, you can begin to think of what lead up to that moment.
2) Rewind the tape back to what was happening on the inside of you and your child. How do you think your child was feeling? Rushed/anxious/angry? Why were they feeling that way? Were their basic needs being met? Were they hungry or tired, or perhaps needing attention?
What about you? How were you feeling in that moment? What needs of yours were not met? And what was it like to react to the feelings you were having? Was there another way you could have reacted?
3) Think about the purpose of the hangover. What is it trying to tell you and how can you learn from it? If it’s not going away, look at why you feel the need to keep beating up on yourself.
4) Think about the roles that you and your partner take. Is one of you always the “bad cop?”. Does that lead to multiple cringe worthy incidents? If so, this would require a re-examination of roles.
5) Think about the positive interactions you’ve had with your child lately. Have there been enough? In this day and age, we are so rushed so often, it can be hard to sit down and have those positive and close moments with our children. Sometimes both ourselves and our children act out because we’re running on empty.
6) Were you distracted during that moment? Speaking of this day and age, it is incredibly easy to be distracted and not in the moment. Our phones, ipads, TV, car radios, etc. provide us with myriad opportunities to be checked out. And this often can lead to having an “auto pilot” reaction to our children that is not in line with our values.
7) Perhaps this cringe worthy moment is a time to think about your values as a parent. It can be really useful to sit down with your partner (or if there is no partner, a close friend, family member or therapist) and really discuss what values you want to live as a parent, and how you can stick to those values even when things get really challenging.
8) What did this cringe worthy moment bring up in you? Past memories? Past relationships? It’s very important to know our emotional trigger points, as our children will eventually press those buttons. If we’re aware of our trigger points, we can react more mindfully and be more compassionate with ourselves.
9) Finally—what amends did you make with your child after this moment? How did you make repairs?