What is Parental Resilience? Resilience is the ability to recover from difficult life experiences and be strengthened by and even transformed by those experiences. Being a resilient parent means you have empathy for yourself and others and are able to keep a positive attitude, solve problems creatively and take life’s events in stride. It means you are able to “bounce back” from negative experiences. Resilience isn’t about how many bad things you experience; it’s about how you respond to them by creatively solving problems, building trusting relationships, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeking help when it is needed.
Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired – How to cope with H.A.L.T. The key to Parental Resilience is a combination of self-care and self-awareness. By taking care of ourselves and recognizing certain signs, we can avoid letting our stress affect our parenting. One of the tools some people use is HALT. This handy acronym reminds us to take a moment (HALT) and ask ourselves if we are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. It seems simple enough, but when these basic needs are not met, we are susceptible to letting difficult life experiences affect how we react to our children.
Hunger isn’t always a physical need, it can be an emotional need as well. Find what will fill you. Understanding the need to eat is fairly straightforward. However, we should remind ourselves to eat well and meet the nutritional needs of our bodies. When we HALT and assess our current situation, we can see a hunger for things such as affection, accomplishment, and understanding. This is why having a support system is so important. Those who love and care for you feed your heart and soul, and ease the emotional hunger that you’re feeling. Having a support system helps us redirect our negative experiences and allows us to provide a nurturing atmosphere for our children. Find something wholesome to eat with a good friend or loved one – with social distancing in mind, of course!
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion to experience when dealt with in a constructive manner. The important thing is to remember to HALT, and take time to understand what is causing your anger, and know how to properly express it. Take a moment to step back and assess whether or not you can confront what is angering you. Sometimes we need to gain control over our emotions. Exercising or cleaning are active ways to get rid of the excess energy anger brings with it. Creative projects such as painting, singing, or writing are calming techniques that work for many parents. Creative projects also allow you to connect with your children in an intimate setting and helps dispel your anger. Meditation or prayer can be a way to calm yourself anywhere and at any time. Talking to someone who isn’t involved in the situation can be a very useful way to think through your anger. Regardless of how you expel your anger, make sure you acknowledge it and reflect upon its causes so you can release it in constructive ways.
Loneliness can occur when we are by ourselves or when surrounded by many people. As a parent, having a social disconnect with other adults can leave us feeling lonely. We isolate ourselves when we don’t feel like others can understand us, withdrawing into ourselves out of fear or doubt. If you’re feeling lonely, the solution is similar to hunger in that the solution is to connect with friends and loved ones. Your support system is there for you when you feel depressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, or if you just need someone to talk to. Rather than hiding from everyone, reach out and connect with others who want to see you happy and healthy.
Tiredness takes a toll on our bodies, mind, and spirit. When our days are filled with helping kids with school work, virtual meetings, working for home and other activities, it is easy to ignore how tired we become. However, running on low energy compromises our ability to think and our capacity to cope. Taking the time to HALT is particularly important when you’re tired. Cutting down where you can, taking a moment of silence and practicing breathing, taking a short break by listening to music or going for a walk – these tactics can help alleviate the everyday stress we endure. Satisfying the physical need to sleep, rest, and rejuvenate is also critical to keeping healthy relationships with our children.
Here’s some advice from Diana Heinze and Karen Perusse, Parent Educators at Champions for Children, about dealing with H.A.L.T as a parent:
As humans our brains go through chemical changes that affect our day to day emotions. Here are four key points that can help parents recognize, respond and put a stop to those emotions.
- Learn to read your own body and recognize your own feelings. Clues like your heart beating faster, feeling anxious, responding with a short temper to questions or conversations.
- Respond to those reactions positively. When we learn to understand what makes us angry and how certain things make us feel, we also learn how to respond to them. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on our reactions and what is causing for us to feel anger.
- STOP. When we practice recognizing and responding we can then stop, take a step back to reflect on the moment, reflect on the situation and how we should have reacted differently. Practice deep breathing. When we slow down our breathing, we can actually trick the body into thinking that it is calm.
- Be aware of your own self talk and be your own best friend. Reality is really not what is happening around you; reality is the conversation you are having inside your head about what is happening around you. (if this sentence is too deep, you can delete it). We often talk to ourselves in ways in which we would never speak to another human being. Talk to yourself about your feelings with the same love, kindness and compassion that you would use if a dear friend or your own child came to you with the same problem/feelings.
Through this difficult time, these four key points are what parents should practice. How we react to our emotions can change the way our children view us. Stay strong and build up your resources to be resilient when a crisis confronts your family. Willow trees are known for their ability to bend without breaking. They’re strong and flexible, which is what you need to be to deal with everyday stresses. No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but building parental resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress – and Champions for Children is here to help!