Back to School & Parenting

I totally understand all that comes with trying to get back into the school routine. All the worry, stress and frustration that can come along with it. Having a 20 year old son and a 13 year old daughter, I have quite a few years of experience under my belt of raising kids in the world we live in, in a world that is so rapidly evolving faster than our brains can sometimes keep up with. 

All the experiences and challenges that I have faced as a parent place me in a position where I have something to offer parents on this journey as well. I often think about if only I had known about life coaching when I was raising my son, how much differently I could have shown up for him and myself. But I also know that my journey was this way for a reason and I can see all the good that came from me having these experiences exactly as they are. It gave me all the passion I now have to help other parents. 

I want to talk about why it is important as parents for us to grow in our own emotional management. What stressors are present for parents with school aged children and how we can show up in a manner that we really want to for our kids. 

I have talked about stress before. How chronic or toxic stress can reach your children. I know no one really wants that for their loved ones. It is that we are so consumed by the habits and routine we are in, that we often can’t focus on what ripple effect it is having on our loved ones. We also tend to not be thinking in the place of the future. We are sort of living in the moment doing what feels right and not looking to our future self for wisdom in how we want to handle various situations. I bring this stress topic up because it relates to our precious children. The truth is if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be overly invested in your kids being happy. What do I mean by taking care of yourself? It really applies to the whole you. Mentally, physically, spiritually. But I want to focus on emotional management specifically. So much of what we do or say to our children is coming from our past experiences, our current perspective. Sometimes our own unhandled trauma and pain. 

As a coach my mission is to work with individuals that want to take their life from good to great. I do this by helping them learn tools to manage their mind. I am here to help functioning people process things from their past, and decide how they want to live for their future self. I help you clean up things in your life for your future. And your kids are part of that future right?

I know the majority of parents want the best for their children. What we do is often rooted in love. But we sometimes can’t see beyond that. We can’t see how our own brain is causing us to show up in ways that we may not choose if we were using our evolved intelligent brain (our prefrontal cortex).

So, you have your brain. They have their brain. You will have two different perspectives. Especially as kids reach the teenage years…13, that healthy desire to separate is actually supposed to be there. It is supposed to happen so they can grow and evolve to become a fully functioning adult within the next 5 years. Now, we know that a human brain is not fully developed until mid to late 20’s however at 18 in our world, they are granted that adult label and the truth is they can decide to make their own way in the world. We may not like it. We may not like that at 18 we no longer have the rights by law to know they health information, even when we may be financially supporting them. But this is the reality we live in and it does no good to argue with that reality.

As parents we need to be aware of our desire to put their needs below our wants. Rather we should practice being curious as to why they see things the way they do, why they make the decisions they do. Can we be open to accepting that there are 2 perspectives and we are only seeing through one?

We grow up in a world where we are fed all kinds of things….sometimes toxic things. We may want to be thinking better thoughts, but sometimes we can’t hear that when we are in a noisy place and have all these thoughts swirling around in our head. Coaching cleans this up and allows me to be available to hear something different. So I worked on my own emotional management and cleaning up things in my past, looking closer at old belief systems that are no longer serving me. It required me to move into emotional adulthood and be hyper aware of my emotions 100% of the time. This is what I want to ask you to look at? Are you attaching your emotions too tightly to your children?

You know, the Concept of a lawnmower parent was shared with me through my continuous training. That is the parent that is out front clearing the path. But the truth is, our kids will need to make mistakes and have negative circumstances in life to find out who they are and who they aren’t. You cannot do that work for them. Just like your parents could not have done that work for you.  From my own experience, I tried to control everything. I tried to have them follow my plan. I tried to make it pretty and perfect. I tried to run ahead of my kids with that lawnmower clearing the way to protect them. I tried to live through them, I tried to make them overachievers, I made them my job, my world and my entire focus. I know this sounds admirable and the right thing to do…but there is a distinction between the motivation and energy we bring. What I want to show you is that distinction. 

For example, if they were ok, succeeding and doing their best…then I could be ok. This is not healthy. It is making our kids responsible for our emotional health.

So what are the stressors that come up when our kids are headed back to school?

I know there are certainly more than I have not captured but here is where I will start. 

Homework – oh my goodness, does that word alone bring up a trigger for you? I remember so many fights around the kitchen table and homework. 

Kid drama – the fact is we live in a world of all types of people and this will allow drama to come up involving our kids at times. If you’re the parent out front with the lawnmower clearing the path for your kids you are going to just be draining yourself trying to solve for any drama that comes up. 

Managing schedules – our world can promote having our kids involved in so many things. Sometimes at a negative overload. What feeds this can be our desire to have them experience many different things, to build their skills, to become proficient and well rounded. To experience everything so they know what they really want to do. Again, all well meaning intentions. But sometimes these hectic schedules are just training our kids to not learn how to slow down. How to really focus on only a few areas at one time and still allow time for peace, reflection and recharging. Sleep cannot be viewed as the only time they have to rest.

Emotions – we have our own emotions to manage (which the majority of us were not taught how to do well) and then we have our kids emotions. Add in hormones and puberty and you can have the ingredients for emotions off the rails. 

Anxiety – not only do our kids have their own bouts with anxiety, but we as parents are experiencing anxiety in wanting our kids to have a happy pleasant experience and not feel discomfort. 

Separation anxiety/missing them when they go back to school. Again, sometimes our kids present the signs of separation anxiety but we as parents also go through a change when they have been with us all summer and now it is time to let them go back out into that unpredictable world. This anxiety can drive our actions and how we show up. 

Concerns for their health & safety. With the circumstances of danger that have been coming about in our schools, our comfort level as parents is understandably off the charts, we hear these stories of tragedy and of course it makes us worried about their safety. Add to that the health concerns that Covid presented and it is just another thing that we get to put in our parental backpack we carry around on our backs. 

Lastly what about communication? After all I just shared is it no wonder that being intentional and grounded in our communication is suffering? The communication we give to our children as well as the communication between both parents. For those in a 2 parent household as well as those in a shared parenting situation. How do you keep yourself calm and collected?

What I am suggesting is managing your mind. When I managed my thoughts around these areas I have exampled, it changed everything. I realized I had a choice in making an intentional decision on how I wanted to handle it. Rather than going with what my primitive brain offered me at the moment. 

No one gives us a roadmap for how to do this parenting thing. We are not trained in such a crucial area of our life. Learning how to navigate caring for and raising another human being. And so we all pretend it’s ok and we only show what is going right in our lives. Meanwhile…we hide our pain, we question ourselves, beat ourselves up and still feel like we are a failure. We are ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it for fear that we are alone.

There is another way. There is a way to grow, evolve and find a healthy middle ground. There is a way to manage our own emotions and teach our kids to do the same. There is a way to not make our kids responsible for our emotional balance.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Learning how to manage my own emotions has been a game changer in how I communicate and build a relationship with my kids. If I knew there was someone I could have worked with to improve my own emotional management when I was in the thick of it, it would have changed everything for me, my husband and my kids.

So where do you start? Go back and make note of the list of parental stressors I shared. These are areas that you could most certainly look at ahead of time and decide how you want to show up rather than being on autopilot of what you have done in the past. 

Beyond that, I’ll leave you with 5 things to think about as you begin a new school year with the kids.

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. Recognize what thoughts are coming from your primitive brain and are there because you have just thought them many times before. 
  2. Stop saying we want our kids to be happy. The best gift we can give our children is to show our kids how to embrace the 50/50 life. Enjoyment and happiness as well as how to process pain, discomfort and disappointment. It’s ok for life to be hard. As parents we actually need to let some of that happen. There is something very powerful when the parent isn’t worried when a kid is going through a difficult time. When we try to take away discomfort from our kids our over sensitivity. We can’t change what our kids are experiencing. Find the middle ground on supporting our kids and letting them figure things out on their own. 
  3. Don’t hang our emotions on our kids. Realize that they are living their 50/50 human experience and your role is to show up with clean energy. Clean meaning it doesn’t have all our junk wrapped up in it. You can bring guidance, wisdom, strength and knowledge to them to share and as they get older let them make their own decision and learn from the consequences. 
  4. Remember that these school aged years are such a small portion of their life. You don’t have to add all this pressure on yourself that you must do it all right to produce a good human. Sometimes people do everything right and things don’t go the way you would have liked right? This is being a human. When we leave our parents oversight, we all have our own agency to do what we want to do. If we try to control our kids lives we are treating them like chess pieces. We get caught up in believing that there is one path for our kids. This comes from what we make it mean. We make their actions mean we are failing as a parent. THIS IS FALSE!!!
  5. Lastly I am nowhere near perfect and that is not what I am promoting here. I am just asking you to step into the discomfort of being a parent and not try to shoo away what doesn’t feel good. How can you show up for all the discomfort of raising kids? How can you not make it mean anything negative about you or them? How can you get curious and ask yourself what is this here to teach me? How can I grow from this and show my kids an example of how to grow from these experiences rather than wishing they never happened? Just like you I am a work in progress. I still make mistakes. I still let my primitive brain drive me around before I catch on what is happening. 

I’ll leave you with an example. My daughter’s first day of school was yesterday and I noticed that I was anxiously awaiting seeing her after sports practice so I could ask that all too common question….How was your day? And I recognized the energy I was hanging out there waiting on that answer. I realized if she said something negative I was going to feel the emotional drop and go into fear, sadness, a real problem solving mode. And I really had a hidden agenda secretly hoping that the answer was a resounding Great Mom! So I could breathe and relax. Yes, I have done so much work on myself and here I was. But the beautiful thing was while I was in it experiencing it at that exact moment I was also on to myself and recognizing what I was doing. So she gave the typical answer that I think so many kids do and said “Good”. Same thing she has said so many times before. So many days over so many years.  And then I felt myself wanting to probe more. But I decided to stop and let her be and let her breathe. Knowing we have worked to build a trusting relationship where she can come to me when she has something she wants to talk about. I don’t need her to tell me how her day is anymore. When I make it about me, it is fear. I can just be there ready to listen to what she wants to offer me. Can you feel the difference? Waiting to hear their positive words so you can relax and breathe versus just being a steady presence that they know you and your home are a safe place? 

So remember when we don’t do our work we fiddle with our kids. It is not their job to live a life that makes us happy. When we become emotionally available, we can have new conversations that we have never had before. So now I am intentionally working on when I see my daughter after school, I will just say, I love you and it’s good to see you.

We’ve got this parents!!! One day at a time!

“The sign of good parenting is not a child’s behavior; the sign of good parenting is a parent’s behavior.”

Andy Smithson

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