As a parent, do you practice self-care? How does practicing emotional regulation as an adult make you a better parent? What can therapists do to help stressed-out parents who deal with unhappy children?
Aaron has been working with children, teens, and parents for over 18 years. After ten years directing camps and empowerment programs around the world, Aaron opened Fire Mountain because he wanted to work with kids and families on a deeper level. Over the first few years of running programs like Teen Rites of Passage, Aaron realized the need to turn his efforts towards teens struggling with drugs, alcohol, and the behaviors and issues related to addiction.
Aaron’s formal educational background is in acting. He graduated from the top acting school in the US, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1990. His skills in comedy and drama make him an influential speaker and presenter, and a favorite among the kids. His confidence, compassion, and humor set the tone for deep healing and fun.
Listen to Aaron's parenting podcast, Beyond Risk & Back.
Some parents get into the bad habit of taking their anger and frustration out on their children when they are young. As the children age, they learn how to retaliate and treat the parents the same way, which of course upsets the parents even more.
What we do as parents when we feel defensive and attacked is that we escalate, and I see parents escalating the situation as much as I see children escalating. It’s an emotional escalation because … we don’t [always] have emotional intelligence. (Aaron Huey)
When parents are stressed, have not slept well, have not eaten well, are worried about their children, have work issues and so forth, they do not make the best decisions.
If in those moments their children ask something of them or push them too far, parents can often snap and yell unnecessarily at their kids. This behavior is then learned by children as the way to behave in these situations.
If we’re not sleeping, eating [well], or drinking enough water, or if we’re not breathing on purpose and we’re not moving our bodies, we are in survival mode because you cannot accidentally be a good parent when your child is in crisis … your best parenting from survival is not good parenting. (Aaron Huey)
Somewhere we have anchored that emotions are a pivot point, but [they’re] not. They make it worse. You’re not going to make a good decision from an emotional place … the thing about emotions is that they change, they’re fluid, they’re not static. (Aaron Huey)
Even a good fluid parenting decision in a crisis is a bad one.
Parents must address their self-care. By regulating themselves, parents will be less likely to flip in a crisis and make poor, emotional decisions.
If both parents or partners are unregulated, have not cared for themselves, and act solely based on their emotions, then it is highly likely that their adult relationship has also suffered.
Have you gone on a date with your spouse? Have you gone to coffee with your [parenting] ex and you’re still trying to make things work with your parenting stuff? Tend to [your] relationship [with them] … and you vent, and after five or ten minutes with them you go, “okay, how are you doing?” (Aaron Huey)
Have emotional conversations with an adult, whether that is your spouse, your co-parenting ex, or another adult that you are friends with to discuss your emotions, have your emotions be heard and reflected, and released.
When the parent then discusses an issue with their child, the parent can remain calm and collected and not release all their tension out upon the child.
It is harmful to the child and unproductive for the situation if the parent – the adult – is having a power struggle with the child.
Therapists can ask parents with high-risk kids: “what does taking care of yourself look like?”
If those parents do not practice self-care and self-regulation behaviors, therapists need to fully explain to the parents how they are hindering their ability to connect with their children when in a crisis.
Therapists need to get parents to understand that:
1 – Self-care is imperative to good parenting
2 – Tending to their adult relationship is vital to their being able to handle tension with their children
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Listen to Aaron's parenting podcast, Beyond Risk & Back