When the heat rises outside, something rises in us too. Not only are our children getting hot, but we find ourselves as parents struggling to keep our own cool. The summer is a time to relax, yet it is a challenge to keep our children happy and content. Being around one another all day can make tension rise between us and our children, but it does not have to be this way. Here are some ways that you can help your children and in turn help yourself to manage “hot” moods and stay calm.
- Structure: Children thrive in structure! However, summer is one of the most unstructured times of the year. Make a plan for your children each day. This includes a regular time to wake up and go to sleep. Plan a few activities throughout the day at regular times. For example, maybe on Tuesdays at 10:00 every week you do a low cost movie or every Wednesday at 10:00 you enjoy one of the local splash pads. Incorporating structure will provide predictability and security for your children. Even when we as parents get tired, if we neglect structure, it usually makes us more tired in the end, resulting in bad moods in our home.
- Rest: Whether it is sleeping or simply relaxing, children need time to unwind. Our culture is a “go, go” culture which makes it difficult for children to settle down. If we allow our children to overplay, they will be overly tired and unable to manage their moods and behaviors. It is important to create a structured sleep routine in which they go to bed and wake around the same time. It is also important to create space during the day between activities to rest, such as spending time alone in one’s room, reading books, playing games, doing puzzles, or watching a movie. This will help children learn to calm themselves and prepare for the next activity.
- Watch what goes in: You are probably familiar with the adage, “what goes in comes out.” This is true for our children. When they eat junk food, junk comes out in more ways than one. Children may feel sick or display a negative attitude. Unhealthy eating leads to children feeling lethargic later in the day. In the same token, when they are in front of the tablet or TV filling their mind, they will throw back out what they take in through their language or attitude. Make sure you monitor what your children fill their mouths, minds, and bodies with so you do not have to deal with it later.
- Safe Place: We all need a place to go when our moods run high. Children need this too. Creating a safe place for your child to go when emotions get high or uncontrollable gives them a method and a space to help them self soothe. This is not a punishment but a place to give them time and space to calm down and regulate their emotions. For some children, going to their rooms or lying on their beds to cry and blow off steam or just be alone helps them to calm down. Maybe your child has a special chair or spot on the sofa where he or she can just sit and chill. Sometimes, children just need an outlet for their emotions, and creating a safe and consistent space for them to chill, cry, and get their emotions out can help them to handle these moods in a healthier way. Talk with your child, and together come up with a safe space for your child to go when moods run high.
- Communication: All of us like to feel loved and cared for. Children can often feel misunderstood, and as parents, we tend to want to communicate with our children during a conflict or when our child has disobeyed or messed up. Trying to communicate with our children when emotions are high, is typically not effective. Find a time to sit down with your child, when emotions are cool and calm, and talk with him or her about a particular issue or attitude. This will be much more effective and encouraging to your child. Ask them questions about how they are feeling, and seek to hear them out and see things from their perspective. This is also a good time to remind them of household rules or boundaries, but in a more positive light. Let them know that you are on their team, and that they are loved and cared for in your home. For older children and teens, consider keeping a journal where you and your child/teen openly write letters and notes back and forth. This can be highly successful in keeping the lines of communication open and getting feelings out. Communication is key to improving relationships, and communicating in a way that is open and caring towards your child is helpful in fostering positive emotions.