Each year I like to choose a word (or a couple) instead of setting resolutions. As I get older I notice the resolutions and “challenges” become just that, and life is challenging enough. The words help me to focus throughout the year. Similar to when I set resolutions, the words fade as the year goes on, but funny enough, I never really forget the word, and when it does come back into my thinking, I don’t have regret over forgetting it. I have renewed focus and relief that my word has again found me.
This year my words are “self-compassion” and “make room“. You will see more about self-compassion for parents as we move through this year. My own parenting journey along with the amazingly committed parents I work with, have inspired me to want to offer more in the way of support, encouragement and strategies for parents. Self-compassion is something I am learning as I parent two teens and I believe can pave the way to so much benefit for our children, with or without special needs. Here is a link to get you started on understanding Self-compassion. And here is another link to a beautiful blog by Lisa McCrohan, LCSW-C, RYT & a beautiful soul who believes that self-compassion and delight will change the world (and also believes in choosing words by the way).
Making room, has to do with our daily routines and the activities we choose to or have to complete each day…it’s about the occupation of parenting (how fitting for an OT), but more-so it’s about what is meaningful to you in your role as a parent. What will bring you satisfaction or make that role more joyful? I think we get pulled from what is meaningful and from what we need, and end up doing more of the “have to’s” (grocery shopping, tending sick children, paying bills, cooking dinner, doing laundry, chauffeuring to various appointments, etc. etc.). Sure, we may get satisfaction from crossing things off our lists, or helping our children and families get what they need, but we sometimes lose the meaningful experiences we so craved when we first dreamed of becoming parents, especially if our child has a special need…those “have-to’s” take over, and often become the bulk of what we do every day…all day. And unfortunately we can’t get rid of the “have-to’s” so we have to find ways to “make room” for meaning amidst them. Sometimes that’s just about mindset and expectations until a greater shift in how we spend our time is possible (hours, days, months, years from now). Thus, I will be sharing some practical strategies for how to “make room” in our mindset as parents as well as in our daily routines with our children, that may help to re-insert meaning into the day to day routines of our family lives (whatever they may look like).
Two primary topics to be covered over the coming months that fit with my words are: 1) co-regulation (supporting positive self-reguatlion for our children by regulating ourselves…you can click to read my previous post about “Easy-er Parenting” ). and 2) decreasing screen time for our children. Increasing amounts of screen time are changing our children’s developing brains NOT for the better, and screen time is adding to the complexity of issues facing parents today. If we are to make room for the things that matter in our lives and in our children’s lives we HAVE to spend more time connecting and teaching our children to connect. That means re-connecting with our children and having them disconnect from screens; not an easy task to say the least and it’s something most of us know but don’t do often enough. Screens are not going anywhere. They are a part of our daily lives. We need them (and want them) and so our kids will too. But for many, screens have taken over and daily challenge is a result. Learning to balance screen time in our families is a must.
To start our year let’s begin by increasing awareness. Notice how often your child asks for or tunes into a screen and notice your response when they get it. Is there a sigh of relief or a flicker of guilt? Is there wonder about what they are watching or joy in sharing a favorite show? It’s all o.k. These responses help us to get to the heart of our own need that may also get met by their screens. There is no judgement; simply awareness. (For me, it often feels like a few more minutes to get the current “to do” item done, before I shift or devote my attention to them, or have another “to do” item more pressing to tend to…my need, not theirs). I encourage you to write it down, in order to really take notice. Don’t change it. Respond like you always would. I will be doing the same.
Self-compassion will benefit you AND your child and is the foundation for improving our relationships and strength for the occupation of parenting. Finally, with this baseline of awareness we may begin to make shifts…in how we think, how we act, and what we do as we tend daily to our occupations of parenting.