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9 Things to Do Before You Lose Your Cool

Alternatives to Screaming at Your Kids When You're About to Lose It


Statistically, child abuse rates are higher among single parent families than among two-parent households1. For the most part, this is attributed to increased stress, financial difficulties, and –– for far too many single moms and dads –– the absence of a meaningful support system. But you don't have to be part of that statistic. You can take charge when you know you're about to lose it and do something else instead. The next time you find yourself overwhelmed by intense emotions, try one of these strategies for calming down:

1. Take a walk.

Stop what you're doing and take a quick family walk. The combination of physical release, a change of scenery, and fresh air will help to clear your mind and give you time to put your frustrations back into perspective.

2. Take a deep breath.

Breathe in as deeply as you can, very slowly. Do this several times until you feel yourself beginning to calm down.

3. Leave the room.

Separate yourself from your children for a few minutes. If your child is an infant, place him or her in the crib and walk away until you can feel yourself calming down. Your child may be crying, and that's okay. He or she will be safer in the crib than in your arms during those moments when you feel intensely frustrated or angry.

4. Talk with a friend.

Develop some friendships with other parents whom you can lean on when you have a rough day. At first, you might be worried about letting someone else know that you're "not perfect," but the truth is that every parent has bad days. In fact, sharing your experiences will not only help you to feel better and cope more effectively, but your effort to be real with one another will also result in a deeper, closer friendship.

5. Call a hotline.

There is absolutely no shame in calling for help. The person on the other end of the phone is most likely there because he or she has been through exactly what you're going through, and wants to help. For immediate, live assistance, 24 hours a day, dial 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

6. Write.

Take a moment to sit down and write about what you're feeling in a journal. Or, if you can't think of anything, just write out the words to a favorite song. Focusing on this task will give you a chance to calm down and reorganize your thoughts.

7. Do something productive.

Many parents find that they become extra sensitive to tantrums when they're already stressed out about other things. One way to gain control over your emotions when this happens is to take a break from the interaction with your child and do something productive, such as cleaning up the kitchen or straightening up the living room. Spending just a few minutes doing something productive that makes you feel more in control can help you approach the situation with your child with a different attitude and intensity.

8. Create a plan.

Many times heightened frustration results from feeling like there are no alternatives. When you find that you're angry over something that your child has done, sit down and think about what needs to change in order to prevent the same thing from happening again. This may include changing your house rules, employing different discipline strategies, or communicating with your child on a different level.

9. Be forgiving.

Be just as willing to forgive yourself as you are willing to forgive your children. And when it is appropriate, take the time to apologize to your child. This creates a clean slate, but it is also humbling enough as a parent to make you think twice before reacting the same way next time.

1J. Goldman, M. K. Salus, D. Wolcott, and K. Y. Kennedy. (2003). A coordinated response to child abuse and neglect: The foundation for practice. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved April 2008 from http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/foundation/foundatione.cfm

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