Doctor Greer Hansen, PsyD

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Loving Your Child and Yourself

As a parent, when you feel overwhelmed by stress and emotion, itís easy to forget all the little joys that your child brings you. In these moments itís imperative that you S.T.O.P. and notice how youíre feeling, then take a moment to cultivate G.R.A.C.E.

Step One: S.T.O.P. (Sad/Tired/Overwhelmed/in Pain)

Sad

STOP. Ask yourself: Am I feeling sad or lonely? It's common to feel isolated and alone as a parent. You may not have time to connect with your partner or your friends anymore and you may find yourself feeling disconnected from the world and the life you had before kids. You may have other stresses in your life that are making you sad: losses, relationship struggles, struggles with your children, etc. When you become disconnected and desolate it's time to STOP and really examine what you're feeling. Whatís keeping me from enjoying this moment?

Tired

STOP. Ask yourself: Am I tired? Many parents sacrifice important hours of sleep because they have so many obligations between kids, work, appointments, school work, sportís practices, errands, house projects, and many more. Sleep is one of the most essential components of caring for yourself and regulating your mood. The next time you find yourself losing patience with your kids itís time to STOP and ask yourself: Am I getting enough sleep?

Overwhelmed

STOP. Ask yourself: Am I overwhelmed? I use Ďoverwhelmedí in a broad sense. Maybe youíre feeling overwhelmed with anger because of a comment someone made to you at work. Maybe youíre feeling overwhelmed because youíre running late and your kids arenít listening. Or maybe youíre feeling overwhelmed because youíve been busy attending to your familyís needs and havenít eaten or rested in hours. Whatever the case may be, if you find your temper is getting short, itís time to STOP and ask yourself: Am I doing too much?

In Pain

STOP. Ask yourself: Am I in pain? Many people overlook the profound effect that being in pain can have on oneís mood and overall enjoyment of life. Whether itís a headache, the flu, menstrual cramps, back pain, or something more chronic, when you are not feeling your best it is nearly impossible to be your best. When you find yourself easily agitated you may want to ask: How do I feel physically?

Once you get to the root of whatís causing you to not be the best parent you want to be in that moment, itís time to rediscover your G.R.A.C.E.

Step Two: G.R.A.C.E. (Grateful/Rested/Amused/Cherished/Excited)

Grateful

Cultivate gratitude in your life. Research consistently shows that people who take time to express gratitude experience greater happiness, improved health, and stronger relationships (http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier). At the end of your day take time to reflect on three things you were grateful for that day. Even on the worst days challenge yourself to find things youíre grateful for. Maybe you were running late to a meeting and someone held the elevator for you? Maybe your child spilled spaghetti sauce on your pants, but you were quickly able to rinse out the stain? Whatever it is, take the time to reflect on the things, big and small, that you were grateful for that day.

You can simply reflect in your head or you can write your gratitude list in a journal to remind yourself later of all the good in your life. You may even want to practice sharing your gratitude list with your partner or your child. Tell your partner or child what you were grateful for that day and encourage them to do the same. This can be a very powerful bonding moment for the two of you, as it offers you both an opportunity to share gratitude for one another and for the life that you have made together.

Rested

Take a moment to rest, even if it's just for a minute. Loving parents get so used to attending to their families that they forget to take moments to relax and restore. Can you put off making dinner for one extra minute so that you can sit down on the couch and take a load off? Rub your temples, close your eyes, breathe, stretch. You may find it calming to close your eyes and bring your awareness to all of the immediate sensations in your environment. Try mentally listing all of the sensations you are aware of in that moment: ďmy kids laughing upstairs, the soft breeze of the fan on my face, the smell of dinner in the oven...Ē whatever sensations come to you.

If youíre sleep deprived, brainstorm ways that you might be able to sneak in extra sleep time. Can you forgo doing the dishes for one night so that you can get to bed 30 minutes earlier? Can you make your kidsí lunches the night before so that you can sleep in an extra ten minutes? If you are sleep deprived because you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it might be time to make an appointment with your physician to discuss available options.

Amused

Laugh. Youíll be amazed at how much easier and joyful your life can be if you take time to laugh at least once a day. Watch a funny show, read a funny article, call a funny friend, tell a joke. You may find it helpful to have humorous ďgo toísĒ on days when itís harder to laugh (post your favorite comic strip to the fridge, bookmark that hilarious youtube video, create a new stand up comedy channel on your Pandora by typing in your favorite comedianís name).

Cherished

Take time to cherish the small joys in your life. If you donít take time to slow down and relish these moments, you are missing out on all of the simple pleasures that make life truly worth living. Maybe you found a new flavor of bubble gum at the store. Or maybe your child made a comment that left you doubled over with laughter. Whatever it is, try to step back and enjoy the moment as you recognize it in the present. If you missed it in the moment, take extra time at the end of the day to reflect on all of those moments that made your life special that day. You may even wish to journal your cherished moments for future reflection.

Excited

When you first wake up in the morning before you even open your eyes think about three things that you are looking forward to doing that day. It can be something big, like an upcoming vacation, or something small, like a special treat after the staff meeting. If you canít think of anything, then itís time to get creative and plan something to look forward to. Maybe you can treat yourself to a fun, new coffee drink at your local coffee shop. Or maybe you can take the night off to pamper yourselfĖ take a bubble bath or watch your favorite TV show. Whatever it is, take time to plan out any little pleasure that will add joy and excitement to your life that day.

When you are overwhelmed with all the stresses of life and parenting, S.T.O.P. and remember G.R.A.C.E. and you will be amazed about how much more you are able to love and cherish your child and yourself.

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