How are your kids doing? Are they calm and easy going? Or are they throwing fits, suddenly super picky eaters, and resisting bedtime like it is a new extreme sport?
When things are off with your kids, you go looking for solutions. Don't like this food, I'll try that one. Trouble sleeping? Let's try a new bedtime routine. Tantrums? New boundaries, less stimulation, clearer expectations, new communication methods.... That's all a lot of work. And then if none of it works? That's super frustrating.
But sometimes the solution is a whole lot simpler.
Sometimes the solution is to focus on yourself.
Let me explain.
Recently in a Facebook group for moms, I had a conversation with a mom whose 2 year-old was "suddenly" acting out a lot. I asked her a few questions, and realized that what seemed like "suddenly" to her had actually been happening for a few months. "What was happening when it started?" I asked. Because, often, like that poor lobster in the pot of water being slowly brought to boil, we don't realize there's a problem until we are deeply entrenched in it. And, she realized, what had happened back then was that there had been a death in her family, and they had all been consumed by grief for a few weeks. And what had happened since then was that she felt guilty even leaving her little guy.
On that surface, that might look like a reasonable flow of events, but I had a suspicion there was more happening here. "So what have you been doing to take care of yourself since then?" I asked her.
"Almost nothing," she admitted. She was exhausted, sad, and hadn't allowed herself space to be alone for several weeks. Her son was picking up on her strain and reflecting it back to her, with his tantrums and clingy-ness, and general discontent.
"What are you craving? If you had an hour, guilt-free, what would you do with it?" She said she wanted to nap. To read a book. To get a massage. I encouraged her to find herself an hour or two in the next week, and just be totally selfish with it. And then see how her son's behavior changed.
"Wow," she wrote back, a week later. "That was amazing! I took a couple of hours away over the weekend. I booked a massage and read a book in a cafe. And I've been going to bed earlier the last few nights. I've had so much more patience with my son! He started settling down faster, and he's calmer and sleeping better. My sweet little boy is back and I'm actually enjoying him again."
Sometimes our kids are going through something, but often, they are just reflecting what they feel around them.
If you are stressed, if you and your partner have been fighting, if you are exhausted and short-tempered.... guess what your kids are going to be like? Not much fun.
So the next time you find yourself asking "What's going on with my kid?" make this your next question: "What's going on with me? How am I feeling? What do I need?"