Independence day, the arrival of summer for many families marks the official start of many family get-togethers and BBQ's! The great food, refreshing drinks, parenting conflicts, singing, ball games. Wait a minute, parenting conflicts ?Nothing like family gatherings and festivities to bring about parenting centered conflicts!
Questions about feeding, advice on sleeping, reccomendations on dealing with tantrums and everything in between, maybe it’s well meaning, maybe it’s small talk, whatever it may be sometimes all those comments and questions from friends, relatives and even strangers can make us parents feel a bit shaken up and lead to conflicts and hurt feelings.
How to cope with annoying questions, how to deal with horrible advice, how to keep your inner peace and not lose your cool at family gathering and festive occasions?
1. Know your triggers: Just knowing which topics or behaviours can have a way of knocking you off balance is already a great step towards keeping your inner peace. When the topics come up, or behaviours surface, breathe and relax in your own inner confidence.
2. Keep yourself grounded: Should anyone start asking, commenting or criticizing on your parenting choices focus your thoughts on you and your family. Think of your wonderful children and all the sweet things they do.
3. Think positively: Remember the reasons you have made your parenting decisions and think of a time when your choices worked so well for you. Maybe there was a time when baby wearing made playing with your toddler so easy or maybe it was that smile from your child when he helped you clean up spilled juice.
4. Stay in neutral: When you are receiving unsolicited advice or worse even admonishment instead of jumping into an argument, try to say something neutral. For example “I will think about that” does not imply acceptance but can help the other party feel acknowledged. Conflicts can lead to learning and growth so it’s not that we should avoid conflicts all together or ignore our feelings, but adding stress to festive events seldomly results in positive feelings.
5. Be Authentic: Don’t try to change your parenting style to please others. If Johnny Jr. spits out the hot dog, it is probably not going to do any good to try using a time out for the first time ever just because you think everyone else expects you to. You and your children will probably be happiest and calmest if you stick with “your normal” regardless of how “un-normal” it may seem to others.
6. Take care: Joy is not going to easily surface in a moment when you feel defensive or attacked. If you feel the need to step away, take a moment to yourself, find another room, breathe and return to yourself fully.
7. Seek perspective: Try to weigh the words that are bothering you, perhaps the intention is truly genuine or the information of that generation is simply different from your own. Maybe asking if your baby is sleeping through the night is really just curiosity, maybe asking if you are *still* breastfeeding is coming from a point of admiration for your commitment.
The summer is an awesome time to build relationships and connection. Staying positive and learning to manage conflict can help keep the peace. The idea is not to ignore our feelings but to acknowledge our state of being, when we receive unwanted advice or difficult questions, when faced with conflict, to stop and feel the warm anger riling inside, feel the defensive stance of our feet and then breathe. Instead of jumping into winded explanations, find your center; be in that moment fully grounded in your parenting principles. Trust in yourself to be authentically you.
Are family gatherings usually peaceful and fun or something you dread?