Some days are terrible.
Some days I’m exhausted, or my kids are exhausted. Or we’ve had too much sugar, or we don’t feel good, or we’re just cranky.
I used to put this in one category if I was the cranky one and another if it was one of my kids, but as it turns out we all work in a really similar way. We all need a certain amount of food, sleep, and free time to function well and be kind. Who knew?
On these days, whether it is parent or child who is out of sorts, we have a unique opportunity to communicate the value of people over stuff or schedules. We can show ourselves and our kids that we/they matter, which may be the most profound thing we can convey to another human being (or to ourselves).
I remember a day, several years ago, with a crying little girl in my arms. She had really lost it, screamed something hurtful to me, slammed a door. I remember her looking at me and saying, “Mama, I’m just so sorry that I said those things to you! Can you forgive me?” I told her that of course I forgave her, and she looked at me smiling and said, “Mama, you never don’t forgive me, do you?”
That precious, tear-stained face was recognizing the magic of a do-over.
Because the weirdest thing we do to ourselves in these moments is stay in them after they’re done! Our shame or frustration or negative feelings don’t want to let go, so we just hold onto them. We take a bad hour and make a bad day.
So, here’s a plan to get from stuck to magic do-over:
- Calm yourself down. If you need a minute, take a minute. If you need a muppet video, get on YouTube. Take a few conscious breaths. Do some positive self-talk. Let go of your need to make your kid feel sorry!
- Help your child calm down. Breathe with them. Stay present.
- Empathize with your kid. Reflect their feelings by saying something like, “I can tell that you feel so frustrated/disappointed/hurt, and I get that. I remember feeling that way sometimes. It’s frustrating/dissapointing/hurtful when ______________ !” This step is a good time for snuggles!
- Make repairs. If you yelled at your child, now is the time to say that you’re sorry! If your child needs to repair something by giving it back, cleaning it up, apologizing to you or a sibling, now is the time to work through that.
- Articulate the do-over. Mark this moment with words, regardless of the age of your child, and make it collaborative. You’re saying that you’re in this together! “Should we have a do-over?” “Do you want to just start over?”
- Decide whether to go back into your routine or do something entirely different to reset your brains. This is a judgment call that can be different at different times. But don’t rule out, “Let’s just quit this and go get the Legos/puzzle/board game/muppet videos.”
Having bad days and being there for each other in them is actually really good for our relationships and our own mental health. But hopefully this helps us avoid turning a bad day into a disaster.