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How to Role Model During Those Stressful Moments

Question: How is the best way for a parent to handle his/her own behavior with children at home during stressful situations? Answers...

© 1998, by Jodie Lynn

A.Keep your voice low in stressful situations.

Tune in to your personal tone of voice. Try to avoid blowing your top. Practice active listening and if you feel like you are going to explode, it may help to leave the room, count to ten, say a prayer, take a walk, or to do all of the above.

Tell your children you need to leave the room for your own time out. Depending on their ages and the specific situation, a kitchen egg timer may need to be utilized to let them know how long you will be gone. Set it for a certain amount of time and put it in plain sight where it can be seen. If you can only take five minutes, so be it. It's better than none. Check a clock or watch to make sure you know when the timer will go off.

Go into another area, close the door and look right in the mirror and say all the things you wished you could say to them. This is a great stress buster. (This works wonders for "telling off," others as well: spouse, sister, boss, etc.)

B. Pop in a tape or CD.

Keep a CD/cassette player already set up in your time out spot. Play your favorite music and take a break away from the current situation. Try to focus on the music. it can completely change your attitude. Become a little daring, dance or sing along. There's a little bit of musical talent in all of us; if not, fake it.

C. Plan ahead.

If there's another adult around, take a little longer break. Make up a group of words or some sort of signal to let your spouse or other adult know when you need to take a break. Try saying, "Time-Out-For-Me," while pointing to yourself. It will be clear you need time away from the situation -- now.

If weather permits, get out and go for a walk. Try to take the music with you or sing your own songs while walking. If there's no one else in the house and you need to get out, try calling a friend or neighbor. Responsible teenagers can always be utilized; keep a list by the phone and call them.

D. Try the unexpected with your children -- try humor and get silly.

Release tension by singing your answers or requests to your children. For example: When my children begin to complain and cry, I sing the "Waa-Waa" song. Sing it to familiar tunes while imitating facial expressions of a not-so-happy camper. Begin to march in place, swing your arms and smile. Yes, I said to smile. Since there is only one phrase in the song, "waa-waa," keep repeating it over and over to the same tune. The kids can't help but to laugh, and before long, they will join in.

While everyone is having fun and calming down, it is also building self-esteem, probably the single most important element to a happy and healthy adult life. This "off the wall" approach says it's okay to vent angry feelings as long as no one gets hurt and even provides an acceptable way to release pent-up energy. The child's self-worth in feeling comfortable enough to voice an opinion has not been damaged. And, best of all, it shows everything is not as serious as previously thought and sends a clear message that it's okay to laugh at ourselves. (So what if it sounds goofy, it works!)

E. Stop talking, and let your fingers do the work.

Write notes to your children. Stick them up where they can be noticed and will be read. A teacher told me she clipped one of my newspaper columns out and mailed it to her teenager. He never knew where it came from and thought one of his friends or teachers were trying to tell him something. He got the message, and since his mother never mailed him letters, she was never suspected of sending it.

If your children can't read, draw a picture. Most children know what the happy face and unhappy face look like. They will surely ask you about it. Sit down and write out your own feelings in a personal letter to yourself, or it can be addressed to the one who is making you upset. This is for you to keep and/or throw away. It really does make a person feel better. (I love to sit down and color. And sure, I use my kid's crayons. They've got such cool shades of crayons out today; it's fun to use them and color in their coloring books.) Try your hand at painting. Turn on some of your favorite music and color or paint away, let all the tension and frustrations flow out.

Go ahead, try some of these "nerve-tamers," there's a big kid inside all of us!

Jodie Lynn is a nationally syndicated columnist of Parent to Parent, and author of Mommy - CEO (Constantly Evaluating Others), Five Golden Rules. She invites you to enter her Mother's Day contest and spread a little cheer. See details at her web site: Parent to Parent

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