Most people would agree that the past several months have been … well, challenging (and that’s putting it mildly).
In times of disruption and unpredictability, it can be difficult for parents to see their own strengths. Upset schedules, constant family time, new ways of working, and fewer ways of playing make life feel more stressful than usual—and parents may feel unequipped to handle it all.
During the first half of 2020, many parents have relaxed their parenting standards—letting their kids spend more time on screens, eat less-than-healthy snacks, or skip exercise or outdoor play more than they’d like.
If this is you—and you’ve subsequently felt guilty—try the exercise below, which will give you an opportunity to check in with your strengths—because in times like these, it’s our strengths that will get us through whatever life throws at us.
Take a moment to think about a recent time when you’ve experienced stress or challenges (that was easy, right?!). Think about what led up to that time, what happened, how you felt during the stressful time, and what actions you took.
As you consider the actions you took, instead of beating yourself up, think about the strengths and resiliency skills you used in the situation (see the list of resilience keywords at the end of this column; you can use them to reframe the way you handled a stressful situation).
Here’s an example: On a particularly stressful or busy day, a parent might let her kids eat gummy bears and a juice box for lunch. The parent might later say to herself, “I can’t believe I let my kid eat straight sugar for lunch! I feel like such a failure as a parent!”
In reframing that reaction, though, she may say, “I’m going through a lot right now. Today was a tough day, and no one can excel at everything, all the time. The fact that I’m committed to her health and concerned about her nutrition means I care. I know what’s nutritious and what’s not, and that’s a strength. I make positive choices most of the time, so I can give myself a break.”
Reframing stressful situations by looking for and acknowledging your strengths can increase your resilience. To take this to the next level, it’s important to look for strengths in others, too. Consider how your partner or spouse, friends, or your children handle stressful situations, and acknowledge the strengths they displayed (the gummy-bear-eating child adapted when her mom didn’t make the typical pb&j!).
This year has been particularly challenging and stressful for so many families, and the good news is that when we focus on our strengths and each other’s, we can increase our resilience and get through—and maybe even come out stronger, and smiling.
Here’s that list of resilience keywords that may help you reframe the way you handled a stressful situation: persist, recover, thrive, courage, intuition, learning, building, adapt, progress, commit, faith, manage risk, hope, strength, communication skills, acknowledge feelings, belief system, recognize challenges, take action, problem solve, gather resources, make positive choices, ask for help, prioritize needs.
Editor’s Note: look for the Strong Families, Happy Kids column in every issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. It’s designed to support parents with actionable tips and strategies they can use to create optimal environments for their children to thrive. To learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Arizona’s mission and resources visit www.pcaaz.org