Return of the Routine: Stress and a Quick Mindfulness Check for Parents

By Pamela Manke, LPC, BCBA, and Clinical Coordinator at FamilyWise Behavior Solutions in Mystic, CT.

The holidays can be demanding; everyone is off their routine, traveling to see family, or having family staying with you.  It can all be exciting, fun, and magical, but it can also bring another layer of stress. Never mind the sugar highs and crashes, or the challenge getting children to stick to a bedtime routine.

In these moments it’s difficult to stay in the moment and keep yourself from getting sucked into everything you need to get done. When will you have time to do the dishes, put away Christmas decorations, and somehow keep the kids from fighting? And when the kids are finally, finally, back in school, that to-do list you’ve been dreading comes back into full view. It’s enough to make anyone want to throw a tantrum.

But instead, take a deep breath.

Get yourself grounded

What are you doing right now? Are you washing the dishes? Are you sitting by the computer?

What do you see? The computer screen, the room?  The dishes, the coffee pot in the kitchen?

What do you feel? The water running over your hands, the coarseness of the sponge? The chair beneath you, the push of the keys on the keyboard?

What do you hear? The splash of the water, the scrub of the sponge against the pan?  The click of the keys or mouse?

And finally, name one thing you are thankful for.

Maybe those dishes in the sink mean your family is well fed.  Maybe the clicking of the computer means you’re able to financially support your family.

Take time to notice not only which tasks need to be completed, but also what is around you.  Did your child have small victories over Christmas break? Did you tolerate your nagging family member longer than you thought you could?  Celebrate these small victories.

Remember to continue checking in with yourself and bring yourself back to the moment, especially as familiar routines begin again.

  • If you like to journal, make a list of things you are proud of, thankful for, or want to achieve.
  • If you don’t journal, name a few things you can see, hear, and feel. Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment before continuing with your tasks.

Don’t forget to breathe.  You are accomplishing more than you believe, and if you can check in with yourself in the moment this may become apparent.

How can I apply this to my child?

Turn off the electronics - It’s difficult to be in the moment with distractions around.

Notice tactile sensations - If you are playing with your child on the floor you could ask them to touch the floor beneath them. What does it feel like?  Is the floor cold or warm? Is the rug rough or soft? You can do this with a variety of items (e.g. puzzle pieces, legos, stickers, while washing their hands, etc). Providing choices may assist your child in identifying the physical feeling, as well as reduce frustration over describing this.

Play “I Spy” - Have your child find something you are describing.  Have your child find something for you to find.

Take a walk - Have your child name the different sounds they hear as you are walking.

Mirroring and progressive muscle relaxing- Have your child mirror your movements.  Taking deep breaths. Stretching your body. Have a silly pose. Can they squeeze their fists really tight and then let go? What about their arms? Legs? What about their eyes or mouth? Have fun with it!

Create a glitter bottle or jar - You can make this together as a project and then have your child watch as the glitter settles. (Find out how to make one here)

Parenting and mindfulness

Mindfulness can be beneficial for both you and your child.  It can help improve your relationship with your child while allowing you to parent from a more grounded place.

Remember when things get hard to check in with yourself; use your senses to ground yourself and take a moment to breathe.

Now go conquer that to-do list a little more mindfully.

About the author

Pamela Manke is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Trauma, Anxiety, and Reactive Attachment Disorders. She is trained in Applied Behavior Analysis, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Systems Therapy, and Play Therapy. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator at FamilyWise Behavior Solutions in Mystic, CT.

Photographers from unsplash.com: Coffee cup: gaelle-marcel; Sun behind: xan-griffin; Mindfulness: Lesly-Juarez