Parenting is tough work, But there are lots of joys too–even if we can sometimes lose sight of that.
If you are feeling a little fried in your parenting life, here are 3 simple habits you can practice to reclaim the joy of parenthood and celebrate a more peaceful family life.
1.Find the Eye of the Hurricane– Too often, when parenting is getting stressful we think “If I can just get X to happen, THEN I’ll feel some peace” For instance, “If I could just get this kid to behave….” or “If I could just get the house in order….” or even “If I could just get FIVE MINUTES of peace!” Those are all good things to work toward, but there is something we need to do first–calm down. Find the eye of the hurricane where you can center yourself even though things around you feel out of control–and remember every hurricane has an eye. Take a breath. Say a prayer. Focusing on reclaiming your peace FIRST allows you to approach all those other things (like discipline, housework, or self-care) more efficiently and more effectively, but if you don’t focus on calming down BEFORE you act, you won’t be able to make the other things happen either. As St John Bosco said, “Master your own character and then you will succeed at mastering those of your children.”
2. Collect Your Kids– Before a shepherd moves his sheep from one field to the next, he makes sure they are altogether. He collects his sheep to him so they will follow him more readily. If your kids are wandering–metaphorically speaking–then BEFORE you hurry them along, ask for help, or correct them, BE SURE TO COLLECT THEM. Get down on their level. Give them a hug. Look at their little faces. Give them a smile and an “I love you.” THEN say what you need to say. That extra 15 seconds collecting your kids on the front end will save you hours of stress on the other side. Take a tip from the Good Shepherd and collect your kids to you correct your kids.
3.Claim Your Joy--Parenting can be stressful but stop settling for stress. No matter how stressful or chaotic the situation seems, actively work to claim your joy. Not enjoying being a parent? At your first opportunity, stop what you’re doing and ask yourself what you could do to bring some joy into THIS MOMENT. Take a few minutes to cuddle with the kids. Make a silly joke. Plan a game or fun activity. Find SOMETHING to celebrate. Refuse to let Satan steal the joy of parenthood. Focus on creating joyful moments in the moment–especially when they are not happening naturally.
For more ideas on how you can be a more joyful, peaceful parent, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids, or, for busy moms of little ones, let Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood help you find a more life-giving balance. Every parent deserves to feel like their relationship with their children is a cause for celebration. If you have lost that sense, know that there really is a way to get it back. And it might just be simpler than it seems.