Getting Past “86”: A Dozen Ways to Unleash Your Parenting Grace and Keep Life Under Control

When I was a waitress at a local ice cream and clam shack, we often had people in multiple lines 25 deep waiting for their chance to eat summer fare. Some items regularly sold out. In restaurant-eze, they were “86” and people were out of luck.

As schools open in various live, virtual and hybrid ways, there has been a lot of focus on what is not on the regular back-to-school menu–what we and our children cannot do. People are asked to feel sorry for themselves and their kids because of what they cannot have. Why focus on the negative when there is so much of what you can have on the back-to-school menu!

The truth is that you can choose where to focus your attention.

The research-based way to get a sense of control is to

  • acknowledge what you are missing
  • notice and accept the way you feel about it, and
  • move to a more powerful emotional place where you can choose from the real menu.

Here’s what to put on your menu:

  1. Stick to a routine.  Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care. Make a dedicated work space part of the routine, so no Zooming in bed!

  2. Get outside at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes.   It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

  3. Find time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes.  If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, turn on music and have a dance party. Run in place. Invite friends to join you. Take a yoga class.  I love the way this one feels personal and live even though it is on Zoom.

  4. Spend extra time playing with children.  Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve. Here’s how.

  5. Move with grace and compassion. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth.  A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Release grudges and disagreements.  At any given time, everyone is doing the best they can to make it through their day.

  6. Instead of “time-out”, help everyone find their own retreat space.  Help children identify a place where they can retreat when stressed. Make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. Got big kids? They need private space, too.

  7. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently.   Children rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next.  Be stable and focus on emotional connection, and focus on safety and attachment.  Find out more WFH tips here.

  8. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance, accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.  See Three Ways to Get a Do-Over

  9. Limit your immersion in social media, COVID conversation and divisive political speak, Mind your potty mouth since it never sounds gentle, especially around children.  Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear and don’t fully understand. 

  10. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing, etc) and give it your all.  See how relieved you can feel.  Play! It is a very effective way of helping kids to express their emotions and communicate them, too.

  11. Find something you can control (not people ❤️), and control it like crazy.  Arrange a bookshelf, closet clean, put together that furniture, organize the toys.  Discard things from the back of the pantry. Making your space controlled when life is chaotic is consistently comforting.

  12. Notice the good in the world and share what went well.  Find lightness and humor in each day.  Try my journal workbook to learn, grow and flourish. Get free chapters when you sign up below.

Need more ideas for your unique situation? Let’s get started!

About the author

Sherri Fisher, MEd, MAPP, executive coach and learning specialist, uncovers client motivation and focus for perseverance. She has decades of successful experience working with students, parents, and professionals who face learning, attention, and executive function challenges at school, home, and work.

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