Taking care of a baby can be downright stressful. I think every parent has experienced being at their wit’s end and feeling like they’re going to lose it! Maybe you were up all night with your crying baby, you’re exhausted, you just want a break and you still have other responsibilities. Your nerves are frayed and it feels like your doing all you can to hold it together.
The fatigue and pressure build, and it’s easy to feel consumed by the stress. Stress has a way of creating more stress, and parenting stress comes with a lot of guilt. The guilt is like being under a spell that says “Other parents don’t go through this, what’s wrong with me?” or “I’m a bad parent.”
Even worse is when your frustration starts to increase and your children respond by becoming distressed themselves. They may start having more tantrums and cry even more. Our children are acutely attuned more to our energy than what we say. It becomes a vicious cycle.
We all struggle with our kids and often get really frustrated, whether it’s with a little baby, a toddler, seven-year-old or our teenagers. It doesn’t help to chastise ourselves for it. What matters is finding the right tools to help us through. Here is a wonderful method of learning to become centered with your child no matter how old they are, from the book, CALMS: A Guide to Soothing Your Baby by Carrie Contey and Debby Takikawa.
C = Check in With Yourself
Pay attention to yourself first before you try and calm your child. What are you feeling—frustrated, tired, afraid, overwhelmed? Checking in with yourself prevents the stress from accumulating because you’re more in touch with yourself. This makes it possible for you to make better decisions and be calmer. This will also make your baby feel calmer because you are not reacting to your baby’s experience.
A = Allow a Breath
Take a moment to try to understand and soothe yourself first. One good breath is a good start, but really take the time to be okay with yourself and what you’re experiencing before you attend to your baby.
L=Listen to Your Baby
Now after you know what’s going on for yourself, try to get a sense of what your baby is trying to communicate (hunger, tired, discomfort, wet, needing a change of position or scenery, sad, frustrated, scared).
M = Make Contact and Mirror Feelings
Let your baby know that you are with him/her and that you see what he/she is experiencing: “I see that your very upset and your trying to tell me something. I’m here, and we’ll get through this.”
S = Soothe
Now help baby calm down because he/she is not equipped to do it alone. Babies need to learn how to calm down in midst of upset. They learn this through your care. If you are calm, patient, loving and compassionate they will eventually learn to calm themselves on their own. Now is the time to rock them or take a walk in the stroller, see if they’re hungry, or need to be changed.
If you try and soothe after you have made contact with yourself and with your child, you will feel much more centered. I think this practice is an essential skill to learn because it is the foundation of any parenting discipline you will be doing in the future. This self-awareness is usually what most parenting books skip, but it’s what most impacts your children. If they feel your energy is out of balance, then no parenting method you use won’t truly work. Developing this skill early on creates a great foundation for the future with your child.