Stress is a part of our everyday life, especially for parents during these tough times. The way we approach adversity shows our level of resilience. Children learn to cope with stressors by watching what their parents do during these difficulties. Many factors contribute to a family’s resilience. Flexibility is key to helping families find their inner strength and to bouncing back in the face of challenges. Every individual makes assumptions about their condition, choses a perspective (positive or negative) about their situation, and employs mental filters which relieve stress. All these factors carry over into parenting skills.
Mental traps are habitual distortions that undermine emotional well-being. This can be a set-up for stress and failure, or guide us to ignore important issues. These traps often are behind bad choices, such as use of drugs or alcohol in the face of challenges. Those choices have a negative impact on the resiliency of an individual and the family unit.
Mindfulness practice is the use of curiosity to redirect thoughts and actions in a positive direction until new habits develop. Uncertainty and change are inevitable in life. Instinct drives us to worry and protect our families. But too much stress undermines not only how we feel but the choices we make day to day. We cannot and should not aim to control everything. Accept that stressful things happen over and over again. Notice those habitual negative thoughts, and ask, Is it true? Drop your assumptions and predictions for a while, and see what changes.
These mindful strategies can be used by both parents and their children for building awareness around challenging experiences by using the simple S.T.O.P. practice:
- Stop whatever you’re doing. Relax into the moment.
- Take a few slow breaths. Notice your breathing.
- Observe what’s going on around you and in your mind. Notice your feelings and how it is expressed. Turn your attention to your body.
- Pick how to proceed. Pay attention to what is most important and take action.
Parent and child can practice these steps together during those moments of tantrum or outbursts.
Parents can utilize these six steps to shift perceptions and prevent stress:
- Make connections and accept help. Value relationships, prioritize time and reach out for support when needed. With the current social distancing, it is easy to feel alone and distant but with current technology, making connections is only a click away.
- Monitor for mental traps. When habits appear, pause, label them “catastrophizing again,” and redirect. Habits take time to change.
- Nurture a positive view of yourself. Focus on your own strengths. Self-encouragement takes practice.
- Aim to accept that change and that uncertainty are a part of living. Fighting with whatever is truly beyond our control is futile.
- Develop step-by-step goals and take decisive action. Stay proactive. Having a check list creates concrete goals to follow.
- Take care of yourself. Engage in enjoyable and relaxing activities. Do what makes you and your family happy.
Engaging your child during these simple steps will not only create better communication but also a better adult.
Please use related sites for more information:
By Maylin Gerardo-Lopez, APRN, FNP-C, CA-CP SANE
Child Abuse Clinical Specialist
UTMB Department of Pediatrics
Patricia S. Beach, MD
Co-Director, Division of General Academic Pediatrics
Director, UTMB ABC Child Safety and Protection Team
Emeritus Scholar, John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine
UTMB ABC Clinic Child Safety and Protection Team, Department of Pediatrics, (409) 747-9298
Bertin, M. (2018). How to be a resilient parent. Retrieved February 25, 2020 from https://www.mindful.org/how-to-be-a-resilient-parent/
Child Welfare Information Gateway (n.d.) Parental resilience. Retrieved February 25, 2020 from https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/promoting/protectfactors/resilience/