How to be a happier parent in 2019
Posted on 8th December 2018 at 20:35
As a mum I want the atmosphere in my house to be largely calm, peaceful, loving and happy. Family life can get a little crazy, mayhem kicks in every once in a while and upsets are sometimes unavoidable when so many different personalities and factors are involved.
So in this article I am going to teach you some of my favourite ways to be a happier parent.
Top Tip Number 1:
In this busy, busy world it can be so hard to know what really needs our attention. Different members of the family have different commitments, places to be and we are all rushing here, there and everywhere. How on earth are we supposed to pay attention to anything properly and why is it so important?
It’s important because without paying attention properly we lose sight of what is actually important in life, we lose sight of the brilliant things that surround us every day and we get bogged down in the mundane every-day-ness of it all.
So how do you know what to pay attention to?
There is a very simple way to work that out. And it is to ask yourself this question constantly “which is more important?”
When you find yourself torn between a household chore and a small child ask yourself “which is more important?” When you are stuck between work and family time ask yourself “which is more important?” When you are facing two or three things that need you ask yourself “which is more important?”
More often than not when you give yourself the few seconds it takes to ask that question the answer is normally crystal clear.
Top Tip Number 2:
But how do we pay attention more?
One of my favourite tools for paying attention is the listening game. Take 30 minutes out of your day together as a family. Sit down and take it in turns to speak. The speaker can talk about anything they like, something that is worrying them, something they aspire to do, something that they have enjoyed, something fantastical. It doesn’t matter what the content is. The speaker gets to speak for 3 minutes, uninterrupted.
While the speaker is talking the other members of the family must listen, really listen. When you are being a listener you must focus all your attention on the speaker, notice when thoughts or questions pop into your head, notice your urge to ask those questions but don’t give in to it, simply bring your attention back to listening to the speaker. Notice how often your attention drifts away.
Once the speaker has finished then all the listeners get a turn to summarise what the speaker said. And the speaker then gets the opportunity to agree or disagree with what was heard.
Each member of the family takes a turn at being the speaker while the rest are listeners. It is amazing how often we think we have listened to what someone is saying but in reality we haven’t heard them properly at all.
Top Tip Number 3:
As a parent I experience a lot of different emotions every day. Some of them feel good, like love and joy and happiness. Some of them don’t feel so great, like frustration and anger and guilt.
One of the things I do on a regular basis is practise releasing those negative emotions. And there are some fairly simple ways to do that for yourself, to release them in a healthy way without exploding or losing your temper.
The simplest way to release those emotions is by using your breath.
Take a few seconds, close your eyes and pinpoint where in your body you are feeling that emotion. Mine is normally in my chest but wherever it is for you I want you to just imagine that the emotion has a colour. It doesn’t matter what the colour is, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, just visualise that emotion as a colour. Now take a lovely deep breath in and as you breathe out imagine that you are breathing out that colour. Keep breathing slowly and deeply until you have breathed out all of the colour, feel yourself releasing it and thus the emotion that it represents.
Top Tip Number 4:
This tip is all about perspective, putting things in perspective. It is very easy, as a parent to lose that sense of perspective. So I would like to suggest that
you make use of a very simple question. This question appeared in my mind after the death of my own dad more than 20 years ago and it has stuck with me over the years.
And the question is “does it really matter?” 9 times out of 10 we get ourselves all wound up and funny about things that really don’t matter when you look at them in the cold light of day but in the heat of the moment they feel like the most important things ever. Asking yourself this question helps to bring you back round to what actually does matter. Does it really matter if a bit of milk has been spilt? Does it really matter if you are 10 minutes late? Does it really matter if there are toys everywhere for a few days? Does it really matter if you haven’t ironed anything this week? Does it really matter?
Top Tip Number 5:
My 5th top tip for becoming a happier parent is to notice the good stuff, to find the positive things in each and every day, because there are always positive things, even in the day from hell.
There are a million more brilliant things in this world than there are rubbish things and in my opinion it’s time we started paying them more attention.
So I want to teach you a technique which features in my children’s book Glad To Be Dan (available on amazon!) and is called the Happiness Jar. Get yourself a nice jar, let the kids decorate it, make it your family’s special jar. Keep it in a prominent place in your home, somewhere that all the family go regularly and keep a stack of paper notes beside it with a pen. Any time something good happens or someone says something nice or something makes you feel good you take a piece of paper and write that thing down, fold it up and pop it in the jar.
Then anytime you’re feeling a bit rubbish or someone else in the family is feeling a bit rubbish you dip in and take one of the pieces of paper out and read it. Talk about what it says, allow yourselves to remember that good thing and allow it to put a smile back on your face.
You can also empty the jar regularly, for instance, once a week or once a month take all the notes out and read through them all together, as a family.
Start paying attention to all the good stuff there is around you, it feels ace.
Top Tip Number 6:
This is the tip That I am the expecting the most resistance to because I am going to invite you all to simply relax. Simply?! Relax?! Have you got a family Jo?!
Relaxation is as vital to your general health and wellbeing as eating and drinking the right things. It does not deserve to be ignored and yet it is very often the thing that we all do ignore. We are far, far too busy to relax aren’t we? We have way too much to do.
And that was my first answer to this question of relaxation. STOP doing so much. We cram our lives and the lives of our children with activities, with things to do, with clubs and hobbies. We think that by booking ourselves into all of these things we are helping our children to grow and expand and explore. But children need time to do nothing in, we all need time to do nothing in, it’s not just a nicety, we NEED it, it’s important. ‘Boredom time’ is when children expand their own brains by working out what to do, by finding something to do, by using their imaginations, by problem solving for themselves. And ‘doing nothing time’ is lovely for us grown ups too, especially when we can let go of those feelings of guilt because we’re not doing anything and we feel like we should be. In fact we did one minute of nothing as part of the webinar, carry on doing that and let those feelings come up, pay attention to that urge to play with your phone or sort the washing out but don’t give in to it.
So my suggestion to you is to cut those activities down. Ask your children to pick their favourite 2 or 3 clubs and slash the rest out of the diary. Spend time at home together doing nothing instead of running round like headless chickens trying to fit everything in.
And I’m going to sneak one last tip in…..
One thing I am going to as you to remember is that we are all learning, always learning. Regardless of your age, whether you are the youngest member of the family or the oldest, we are all learning. Children very often believe that their parents are perfect, that the grown ups are always right. I regularly talk to my girls about the fact that I am still learning how to be the best person I can be, how to be the best mummy possible. They understand that because they know that they are still learning how to be people too. So when I’m grumpy with them they are much less likely to take it personally, to believe that they are the cause of my bad temper – because they are not, I am. Something they may have done might have caused me to feel frustrated or upset but I am the only one who can actually make myself feel it and I am the only one who can make myself act it. And they know that.
Having that understanding helps us all to accept that we are all doing the best we can as we learn. And that acceptance makes it so much easier to show compassion to each other. Which makes us all happier. Hoorah.
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