Staying calm, Mama

Do you sometimes yell at your kids? Because I’ve lost my patience sometimes.

I’m never proud of it though, because I know I’m a better parent when I keep my cool. Yelling can be effective, but it always leaves me feeling like I dropped the ball. It’s the opposite of that wonderful feeling I get when I manage to resolve a situation through a calm, rational analysis of the problem, followed up by a few suggestions on how to solve it. My child quickly settles down and starts considering the potential solutions I’ve offered, and before you know it, the situation is completely under control.

There’s a lot to be said for keeping calm around our children, and it goes well beyond making us feel like we’re good parents.

A 2014 study in Psychological Science, conducted jointly between researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and New York University, separated mothers and their infants for a brief period of time, then exposed the mothers to some mild negative stressors. Upon being reunited with their babies, the infants embodied the same negative stress their mothers had experienced. It’s not known exactly how those emotions were transferred, but even without being exposed to the stressor itself, the infants sensed that their mother was stressed and emulated those emotions.

Another study from the University of California, Riverside, showed that parents who remained calm while helping their kids undertake a frustrating laboratory challenge helped their kids to stay calm and focused as well.

So what does that mean in layman’s terms? It means that whether you’re stressed or calm, you’re probably passing those feelings onto your little one. Your emotions are, quite literally, contagious.

Unfortunately stress is a part of a parent’s life. There’s no avoiding it. Unless we’re blessed with some kind of superpower, we’re going to lose our patience at some point. I’m not suggesting you should beat yourself up in those moments, only that we should strive to minimize them.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either in the midst of teaching your little one to sleep through the night, or you’re thinking about getting started. If that’s the case, it’s a good bet you’re already sleep-deprived yourself, and when we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re short-tempered, easily agitated, and more likely to raise our voices and give in to feelings of frustration.

In short, we’re likely to be a little bit stressed out, and as we’ve seen, that stress permeates our kids, which stresses them out, which cranks up cortisol production, and this can become a vicious cycle.

I know it’s not easy, I’ve been in your shoes. But I recommend you try your absolute hardest to stay calm. There is a quote I read years ago that says “The days may be long, but the years are short”. So I know the current situation can be difficult and the felling that the challenges never pass, but when our children grow up, we will say that it passed quickly.

So now practice some deep breathing exercises, meditate, do a little yoga, and/or something that makes you happy. These things will keep your reservoir of energy high and put you into a calm, tolerant, accepting state of mind.

Know that if things go as expected, most babies start showing huge improvement in sleep by around night three, so relief is just on the other side of that hill. You will get there.

And when your little one is sleeping through the night, and you managed to get through the process without giving in to feelings of frustration, you’re going to feel like you just won the World Parenting Championship.

Sleep-filled nights are right around the corner, mama! So be patient, take a deep breath, be calm, and it’ll all be behind you soon.

You are not alone! I am here to hold your hand.

Carla Picolli

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