Photo by Arwan Sutanto on Unsplash
I want you to imagine you have an empty glass. With every stressful or challenging moment you encounter throughout the day I want you to add some water to your glass, the amount will depend on the level of anger or anxiety that moment caused you.
Now I want you to think about your average day and how many stress triggers we as parents encounter throughout the day; caused by the current state of the country. These are, to name a few:
Traffic jam on the way to and from work caused by loadshedding.
Inability to do your work properly and meet deadlines due to loadshedding.
Your standard grocery shop bill has gone up again.
The interest rate goes up again and so do your loan repayments.
You worry about how to stretch your budget to the end of the month.
You rush home in traffic, rush to make dinner before loadshedding hits, plus it’s suicide hour and there’s no water in the taps for bathtime.
Now look at your cup in the illustration below:
As you can see by the end of each day our stress cup is full and any triggers are likely to lead to us spilling our emotions all over the place.
Unfortunately, the time when our cups are at their fullest coincides with when we are returning home to our children, who themselves are also tired and emotionally tapped out, craving attention and love from us. Chances are they are going to do something to trigger or challenge us. Their behaviour is natural and often, age-appropriate but because our tolerance cup is almost full this challenging behaviour tips us over the edge and we ‘flip your lid’, taking our day’s anger out on our children.
Of course, we all have times when we aren’t proud of our parenting. We are only human and sometimes our emotions get the better of us. The current state of things has us operating on a high level of anxiety and stress all day, every day. We do not get a break from it. This means that our emotions are likely to be getting the better of us more often and our children are getting the worst of our own behaviour more regularly.
Repeated displays of anger from a parent that are more severe than the expected consequence for the challenging behaviour of a child, means that our child may come to view us as a threat or as a source of their own anxiety as they cannot predict our responses to their actions. Prolonged over time, this may start to take away from their secure attachment; this is something no child deserves or should have to experience. Attachment theory has shown that the impact of an insecure attachment is lifelong and presents many challenges in future relationships.
The challenges we are experiencing aren’t going away anytime soon so we need to be extra mindful of how we handle the emotions we project onto our children while dealing with our own emotional storm on the inside.
Here are some ways you can take back control of your anger:
In moments of extreme stress, walk away, take a deep breath and remind yourself that they are only children and more often than not their behaviour is age appropriate. Return and set boundaries in a calm manner.
Practice gratitude. It removes some of the water from your cup so that there is more room for other new stressors. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to improve your frame of mind.
Take time for self-care. It is not selfish to choose a small part of your day to exercise, practice a hobby or just be quiet. You will be able to give your children and your partner a better version of yourself.
Many of our current stressors are predictable, for e.g. loadshedding and traffic. Do what you can to make them less difficult to endure. Play soothing sounds in the car and use it as a time to be mindful. Plan easy-cook, budget-friendly meals for the evenings.
As I mentioned before, we are only human and doing our best to survive in really challenging times. We just need to try and remain mindful of the impact these continuous, stressful times are having on ourselves, our kids and our relationship with them.
Be kind to yourself and know that you won’t always get it right, and when you don’t take a moment to repair, apologise for your outburst, shower them with love and move forward together.
We are resilient and we will all get through this together.