by Karen Gibson
By empowering ourselves as parents, we will empower our children to live the lives they desire. Our goal as parents is to give our children the tools to prepare them for a fulfilling journey as an adult. How can we empower ourselves in the midst of the overwhelm that sometimes leads us to question our worth as a parent? Empowerment is defined as “people having power and control over their lives.” How do we control our children to make the best decisions? Empowerment has nothing to do with controlling our children. It is the wisdom to trust in our children’s journey. It is taking the time to find resources and support to guide you through the chaotic challenges that arise throughout our journey as parents. It sometimes involves letting go of what we cannot control to maintain peace and save our sanity.
As a parent coach and mother of two adult daughters, 19 and 25 years old, I’ve discovered that if I don’t create a strong mindset, my daughters’ moods will dictate my level of peace. Nearly 30 years as an educator working with children of all ages led me to the conclusion that my students become my children. I experience a deep love for them, yet also face frustration when they choose to complain about the homework they’d rather not do or make poor choices that result in harsh consequences. When I wrote, “Mama’s Gotta Let Go: How to Let Go without Losing Your Sanity” shortly before the pandemic, I had no idea how important it was to let go of the fears, anxiety, and stress that an unexpected global pandemic would cause parents worldwide. Parent Empowerment is a necessity in our forever-changing new normal. Without it, our parenting journey will feel like climbing Mt. Everest in rubber slippers wearing a swimsuit. Many of us who lack empowerment often wonder if we will survive.
Here are the top 5 must-do tips to create a strong parent mentality:
1. Instill healthy habits.
Rituals are extremely vital. Practice meditating daily before you get out of bed and before you enter Dreamland. We all spend time sitting on the toilet, doing laundry, getting dressed, and eating meals which are perfect opportunities to deep breathe. When you deep breathe, you are sending messages to your brain to calm down. You can practice 4-7-8 breathing anywhere and at any time. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of eight. This completes one cycle. Repeat for three more cycles.
When you’re first learning, try to practice at least twice a day, but you can do it as often as you want. Only do it for four cycles in a row in the beginning. After you get used to it, you can work up to eight cycles. You may feel lightheaded at first, but this will pass.
Saying positive affirmations to set a strong mental mindset creates a positive atmosphere. A simple affirmation can be “I choose peace no matter what happens.” Make time to call a friend or a supportive family member to have a 5-minute chat to start your day with a laugh or end your day sharing simple blessings that you experienced.
Instead of choosing that high-calorie, sugary dessert, keep some tasty healthy treats that give you energy rather than a sugar high followed by a drop in your energy level.
Parents have a powerful impact on their children’s mindsets. The language you use and the actions you take show your children what you expect. Practicing positive self-talk will foster a healthy habit of training your brain to focus on the positive, instead of creating a destructive habit of dwelling on the negative. Accepting mistakes as learning opportunities is the best habit to begin today.
2. Heal with humor.
Laughter heals and gives perspective. You aren’t going through struggles, you are growing through your challenges. When you find a way to laugh through the rough times, your mind will thank you for it. “Laughter is the best medicine” is not just a silly quote. Humor can bring hope, reduce stress, and emotionally connect you to others. It even keeps you mentally stable, focused, and alert. Laughter helps you release anger and forgive sooner. Watch a funny YouTube video, call a friend who you can rely on to make you laugh, or find a favorite comedy to watch. Developing a sense of humor will help you build resilience to stress. Teaching your children the power of humor will be a simple mental tool they can use to cope with stress, fears, and anxiety.
3. Carve out time for mini moments of happiness.
Snack on your favorite treat. Watch that hilarious TikTok or read inspirational quotes to tickle your soul. Happiness can consist of simple pleasures. Make time for a treasured hobby you enjoyed before you became a parent, enjoy a relaxing walk, hang out with a few friends (via Zoom or in-person) or watch your favorite movie from your childhood that warms your heart.
4. Create emotional boundaries.
As parents, we are taught the importance of setting boundaries and expectations for children. We make it a priority to help them build life skills that include patience, problem-solving, resourcefulness, responsibility, and self-discipline. However,
I believe that if we do not create emotional boundaries, we will engage in unhealthy conversations, struggle with protecting our personal space, and suffer from guilt when we see our children upset after we carry out much-needed discipline. Setting an emotional boundary means we speak up and communicate that we need the space, time or attention, to properly care for ourselves and that no person, even a child, should cross that line.
We all have our lines of discomfort. Awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgment are the first steps to start creating emotional boundaries. Children must also be taught to respectfully speak out when they feel their emotional boundaries are being threatened.
5. Acknowledge your emotions.
Many children are taught not to express negative emotions. “Don’t cry!” “You’re being overly dramatic” or “Why don’t you just do what I say instead of arguing?” As parents, we struggle with being compassionate and sometimes end up criticizing our kids, especially when our buttons are pushed. If we learn how to understand emotions in ourselves and our children, we will be able to regulate our own responses to strong emotions. Learn to identify and label emotions, and approach your emotions with curiosity. Give yourself permission to walk away and gain perspective before giving in to explosive emotions that may lead to challenging conflicts. Practice the power of deep breathing. Teach your children the importance of taking a break in the midst of the emotional rollercoaster we find ourselves on when we least expect it.
These 5 tips, instilling healthy habits, practicing humor, carving mini moments of happiness, and acknowledging our emotions are crucial to parent empowerment. As parents feel empowered and teach their kids how to be empowered, parenting will be less painful and more peaceful. I invite you to at least incorporate one of these tips this week.