My Parenting handbook

Parenting Hadnbook

Chapter 1

Chapter 11: Putting the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First

In this chapter we aim to arm you with research, tools, and strategies to better regulate your emotions as a parent. When we our calm, this trickled down into the emotional climate of our homes. We use Dr. Bruce’s Perry’s Model of Regulation to help translate actionable steps you can take as a parent to manage your own stress so you can be more emotionally available to your child and less reactive. 

he most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

The reality is in order for your child to regulate their emotions, they need you to regulate yours. Co-regulation is a prerequisite for self-regulation. However, if everything about our bodies, tone of voice, and emotions is conveying that there is danger looming, how do we adequately communicate to our children that they are safe and send the signals to calm their children’s nervous system?

Whatever is going on with a parent’s nervous stem is often mirrored in their child’s. Imagine you are on a plane, and there is turbulence; the plane starts to vibrate, and the lights flicker. The captain comes on and shakily says: “Folks, this is my first time flying through turbulence this bad, and I’m feeling really nervous about this. Please bear with me as I try to get us through this and land us safely.” How would you feel as a passenger? Our guess is terrified, feeling the plane could go down at any moment as you gripped the edge of your seat. When we get stuck in a stress response, this is the message we send to our children.

Being a safe harbor and anchoring our children means we have to ensure we take care of ourselves first. For many people, self-care is laden with guilt, surges of effort, fear-mongering, marketing ploys, and little sustainability. Self-care has become a ten billion industry with millennials spending double the amount of money than their parents, yet many of the praised health and wellness outcomes remain unproven.

Audre Lorde said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” When we do not care for ourselves, the self disappears. Self-care cannot be a “to-do” item on our list that may or may not happen; it has to be prioritized. When we are able to slow down, tune into ourselves, and take care of ourselves, our children are more likely to model the same behavior. If we are constantly exhausted, rushing from activity to activity, saying “yes” to everyone, and psychologically struggling, our children become more likely to model the same behavior. 

 

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