When I’m grounded, I know my priorities. I know that I want to be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind. I know that if I mess it up, I will make a repair. Sometimes I’m exhausted and a little overrun, because with young kids, there never seems to be enough time to truly take the time for myself that I crave. But yet, it’s okay. I know that all is well, and that mostly, the things I don’t get to are the things that don’t matter as much anyway.
But when I’m not grounded, I worry. I worry what other parents are thinking about my parenting. I worry that if my 3-year-old is this ornery right now, how will she possibly be a kind and empathetic adult? So I lay down the law. I’m strict. Or I’m not strict because I’m tired. Or I feel generally bad about how I spend the tiny bit of spare time I can muster. I just don’t feel like my best self.
We all move between being grounded and ungrounded. Our energy ebbs and flows. We have good days and not good days. We’re tired or we’re sick. Our kids are at stages that require more of our energy. Or something.
The goal is to be aware of ourselves and to notice whether we are grounded or ungrounded. The difference comes in awareness, in conscious contemplation about where I’m at. The difference comes in doing my own inner work. This makes all the difference. When I’m aware of this, then I notice when I am ungrounded, I think about what I need and I ground myself in order to be the person I want to be in this moment. When we don’t do this, we tend to project negative thoughts or intentions on to someone else, and we can respond in ways that are hurtful to them or us.
Everyone has their own ways of grounding themselves. What works for one will not work for another. I’ve put together my list of things that work for me.
- Stop and think, “What do I need right now?” This is a very powerful question. It focuses on our own needs, rather than on criticizing or judging someone else. It turns us inward, to remember our own inner work, and to ground ourselves before responding to someone else. As a parent of young kids, sometimes what I feel I need truly is out of reach at the moment. Maybe I feel I need some quiet time but getting time away from my kids is not possible right now. But if that is my thought and intention, I can find the realistic ways to achieve that. Maybe we go to the park, where I know I’ll probably get just a couple of moments to sit on the park bench now that my kids are old enough to not need to be followed up the play structure. Or I’ll get a moment of no talking while I push my daughter on the swing. When they were babies, I found some quiet moments when we went for walks with them in the stroller or sled.
- Read relevant articles on the ahaparenting.com website. Dr. Laura Markham’s website and articles are so grounded in attachment research, best practice for early childhood development, and supporting children’s social/emotional development. The website is easy to use and the articles are a good length. Reading about 3-year-old whining reminds me that this is normal and my child deserves my compassion. Dr. Markham’s articles also offer very practical tips for responding to our children in ways that will support prosocial behaviour. You can find her website here:
- Never, never, never forget the beauty of the light inside your child. When I was hoping for each of my children, but before they were even conceived, I had a sense of a beautiful, wonderful soul waiting to be my child. This continued through my pregnancies. I had such a powerful and spiritual experience of feeling that these children were meant to be mine, and I was meant to be their mom. And the love that surrounded this experience was bigger than I had ever felt before. I believe that having a child opens us up to a close, deep and powerful spiritual connection with the soul of another. Every person you will ever meet has infinite worth. This is a gift from God.
- Be present. Stop the buzz of your thoughts and worries and be present in this moment. Even when things are generally going well, and most of our worries are not big worries, we tend to be full of anxious feelings that make it difficult to be present. Remind yourself: right now, in this moment, all is well. The next step will come in time.
- Look at pictures of your kids and yourself. Really look at those moments of joy and connection. It’s real and it matters, even if right now is hard.
- Ask for help. In big ways, in small ways. Ask for help. We’re not meant to do it alone. My husband and I don’t have family in our city, so we haven’t been able to ask for babysitting help from family. This is one of our challenges. So we find other ways. Sometimes, what really helps me is sending a text or email to my lifelong friend to relay how hard things are. She’s always empathetic and it always helps.
One of the biggest ways I ask for help is by seeing the therapist I have come to know and greatly appreciate. She helps me ground myself, and understand and process the many emotions that come up for me as I parent. Do whatever works for you: talk to an elder, seek out a wise aunt or grandma, see a therapist, talk to a pastor…whatever works for you.
- Believe in what your heart says. Believe in what your gut says. Pray and be still and know. Our world is way too focused on heads and thoughts. Don’t forget all the other ways of knowing.
- Remember that decades of research, and new and growing research every day, backs up that doing our own inner work to be present parents, so that we can raise children with a secure attachment, helps children to develop into healthier, happier, more empathetic, more independent (but also knowing when to seek help) kids with healthy prosocial skills. Parenting in a way that supports and grows your child’s social-emotional skills is not a fad, and it is not someone’s whim or opinion. It is clearly a vitally important way to parent if we want a world full of empathetic, compassionate, strong, critically-thinking, balanced humans. So stay the course!
- Eat chocolate. Drink tea. Do that little thing that you need. When my daughter was still tiny and my son was an active, busy, demanding 3-year-old, then when I needed to ground myself, I would go for a drive. I would turn on Raffi and my son would bop along to the music in the back seat. I would go through the drive through and get a coffee for me. I would get a whole grain bagel with cream cheese for my son. He sat there eating his relatively healthy bagel, bopping along to Raffi (and most importantly in that moment, not talking to me), and my daughter would fall asleep. It was my survival some days. I’m not gonna lie. I was happy that both my kids were strapped into car seats, and neither of them was touching my body. This little ritual was my grounding when I was at the end of my rope. Then we all outgrew that, and moved on to other things.
- Move. When I’m not feeling grounded, moving is often the last thing I feel like doing. I feel like curling up under a blanket in one of those moments that sometimes feels entirely out-of-reach as a parent. But movement has a powerful effect on our bodies, our minds and our moods. I like to do yoga but getting to a yoga class on my own can be challenging. I haven’t done that with any regularity for the past couple of years. Sometimes, all I can practically do is a yoga video with my kids. We use Cosmic Yoga for Kids. It feels less than perfect to do yoga to a video of a kids’ story, with my kids sometimes climbing on top of me, but sometimes it is enough. You can find the link to the Cosmic Yoga for Kids website here:
Photo by Chris Hoover. Not great photo quality, but it is real life! See those little feet sticking out under my arm? There is a whole 3-year-old under there while I do yoga!!
- Accept what is. Sometimes, I have a goal of what I hope to accomplish for the day. Let’s say I’ve decided that I want to make muffins and make a nice supper. But then my kids can’t be together for more than 2 minutes without one of them screaming and I can’t seem to get into a rhythm of settling them and getting some work done. Today they need me more. So I have to adjust my to-do list. Maybe I drop making muffins and simplify my supper plans. I might have a little cry to let it go – but ultimately, our stress decreases as I accept what is needed of me today.
My good friend and I both had first babies who had a hard time falling asleep. We shared stories of settling into the rocking chair with our babies in the evening, feeling energetic and optimistically thinking about what we could accomplish after our babies fell asleep. As the minutes wore on and our babes took a long time to settle, my friend and I would each slowly cross things off our mental list. Our list of what we realized we could accomplish got smaller and smaller. And then, we both realized with a laugh, on many nights, by the time our babies were sleeping peacefully, we were both exhausted and did nothing more than watch a show on Netflix and go to bed.
- Take care of your body. I get low blood sugar easily, so one thing I’m careful of through pregnancy, breastfeeding, caring for young kids, working – whatever I’m doing – is to make sure I eat meals on time.
I also go to a chiropractor. It’s a family friendly place that I can take my kids along to. Pregnancy, carrying young kids and not having enough time for exercise do wonky things to our bodies. This is one thing that helps me.
- Consider your family balance. Sometimes, our family schedule really is too full. Then we need to make changes to give ourselves the down time and the connecting time that we need.
- Sleep. I know. I like to stay up late and have time for myself, too. But I had to say it. It really does make a difference.
- Have compassion. Sometimes, when I feel tense and can’t get in the groove, I’m able to soften by just thinking, “What if I trust that what I’m doing is enough?” “What if I trust that how my kids are is enough?” Usually, this thought softens everything enough that shifts happen more easily, and there is more joy. And then it really is enough.
I would love to hear from you. What works to ground you?
Photo by Tanya Hoover. Just a lovely, relaxing photo to end on…hopefully, you get a few moments like this now and then!