Warning Label for Parents

Babies don’t come with a manual. At least they should have a warning label on their little hospital cap for the new parent:

WARNING: Parenting may cause stress. Sources of stress include Facebook, your friends, relatives, societal pressure, and a lack of support.

On the back, they should caution you against the pressure you feel to wear all the hats: “You don’t really need to know everything about professional babyproofing, be a pharmacist, a nutritional expert, a motivational speaker, an educational advocate, and a psychologist.”

I’m not sure you would believe it over all the “should’s” that constantly ring in your ears. You should stay up all night on the internet learning about why coconut oil is a super-food (this week) or poison (next week). You should know how to diagnose your kid’s behavior and know exactly how to get them to do their homework.

I hate to interrupt an internal dialogue rant in progress. Please excuse me.

I have a suggestion. Once you finish hyperventilating, meet me over here.

I can’t post my own WARNING LABEL without some directions. I’m a father of two kick-ass kids so I have learned a few things along the way. In my work with thousands of kids and parents as a Positive Psychologist, this would be my advice to the stressed-out parent.

DIRECTION: Reduce stress by adding play, laughter, and sprinking in self-care.

You don’t need to run around like a chicken who lost her head. Even if you may be new at this… you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. All of your experience in life has gotten you to this point.

“What is this point?” you ask. You may not have any hair left to pull out.

Let’s do a little self-check. (I hear my wife asking) Is anyone bleeding or unconscious? Are there any bones sticking out? “OK,” she would say, “so let’s slow down and take it from the top.” Repeat after me:

Everything is going to be OK.

In fact, let’s do something together right now that I guarantee will help:

Positive parenting advice, part 1

Sit up straight, put your hands in your lap, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take three slow breaths. Before you jump up after the three breaths, take a moment to return to the world you just left for a moment. Try using a few of your senses to smell what’s in the air, notice the light in the room, and feel how your feet are resting in your shoes.

Isn’t it funny how we forget to do something as basic as breathing?

I have more ideas like this. They can help you laugh more and find more fun in your day. Here’s another one:

Positive parenting advice, part 2

Get out a post-it or any scrap of paper you have at hand. You’re not going to frame this. Write down three things:

  • something you are proud of
  • something you desire
  • something you are grateful for

This is a mixed gratitude-mindfulness exercise that takes 45 seconds a day. Why is it mindfulness? Because mindfulness is about noticing where you are here-and-now. If you are proud of something, it happened in the past. If you desire something, it is coming in the future. What you are grateful for exists right now. So it’s like you stretched your mind back, then into the future, and then centered yourself in the here-and-now.

If you get good at this, you will start to bend space and time.

Advanced level: do the Brag-Desire-Gratitude exercise when you wake up each morning. It will set the tone for the day.

The good news is that you can reduce your stress without some big wholesale lifestyle change. This is like a diet where you don’t have to give up eating bread. You can still be a part of the world.

You just need to add something. You don’t need to subtract or starve yourself.

You just need a positivity supplement. Here’s why this works: change the ratio of positive and negative emotions you have every day can change your outlook, according to research by Positive Psychologists.

Just increase the number of positive emotions you feel each day. you don’t need to get rid of your negative feelings like guilt or frustration. Changing the ratio by getting more smiles and joy in your life can make a huge difference.

If you want more positive parenting tips and tricks like this, you are welcome to join other Moms and Dads who want to “level up” in the free Stuck-at-Home Parenting Workshops.

Learn more here.