Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Now try to be a parent and a spouse at the same time. Not sleeping, trying to manage a household – life can be spin out of control so quickly. Urban Suburban Mommy thought it was about time that we spoke to a relationship expert for tips and advice on how to manage life with kids. We are excited to share our 10 questions with parenting specialist Lauren Millman – we are sure you will find her answers to be very insightful.
1. What do you say to parents who are sleep deprived and are trying to be the most effective parent/partner?
We know that when we’re sleep deprived, we’re short-tempered, curt, and often very reactive, living in the ‘heat of the moment.” Let your kids know that your tired and short on patience, but that you’re going to try your best to be kind, level-headed, and responsive to them. Parents can use techniques like breathing in slowly and exhaling slowly to lower the sympathetic nervous system which will keep you in check and calm. I also recommend the smiling technique. We can trick the brain into thinking we’re ok and in control, even when we’re not, by placing a gentle smile upon our faces. Try yelling or being angry while smiling! See, it works!!!
2. What tips can you provide to help parents carve out me time or couple time?
Life is so busy these days, with working moms and dads, kids, extra-curricular activities, the busyness of being busy, and finding time for yourself, your significant other, or even a date-night, can be difficult at best. Arrange “couple time” or “me time” ahead of time. Sit down with your partner and review each others’ schedules in order to make time for one-on-one time for conversation and catch-up, and even a date night. Then, book it in, just like an appointment. By doing this, you can mentally and organizationally prepare-get a sitter, put the kids to bed, sneak a lunch with each other, and plan that date-night.
3. How do you help parents work out their frustrations with their kids or partners?
One of the biggest pitfalls of any relationship is the lack of outlets to express that frustration as well as the lack of effective communication. When we feel frustrated, we often escalate emotions, and feed into that frustration which, in the end, is counter-productive and ineffective to the goals we’re trying to reach. When you begin to feel frustrated, know that what your doing and identify that the way in which you are handling things isn’t working.Take a time out, re-group, compose yourself, and then move forward. When we’re frustrated we’re in fight or flight mode, and we’re reacting and not thinking clearly. It’s o.k. to take a step back, and wait. Disengage kindly and calmly until you can come back and lead by example. You can also write out your frustrations in a diary or notebook, wait, and then assess if you need to revisit the situation or if your frustrations have subsided. Pick your battles, right?! Calm does win the day. You will be able to express yourself in a dignified manner and save face. You are now able to give your child or your partner, the courtesy of a successful outcome too.
4. What advice do you give to moms who feel like they are failing and can’t manage everything?
You can’t manage everything. You may be able to for a short while, but eventually it can catch up with you in some not-so-nice ways: like feeling completely overwhelmed, anxious, panic-stricken, highly reactive, or even lashing out or yelling frequently. We can be Supermoms, but with balance. Ask for help. Accept help. Say no.
I learned that if I was going to be the best Mom, wife, and person to myself, I had to set limits. No one is judging you. You’re a busy mom. You’re not failing, you’re just taking on too much and you’re not a machine. Let yourself off the hook. You’re doing the best you can with what you have at this moment in time. It’s all temporary. And remember, you’re not supposed to manage everything. You’re supposed to love your kids, and enjoy them.
5. How important is “me” time and how often should it be taken?
If mom is happy, the kids are happy. “Me” time is critical for moms to recharge and reboot. I always tell my mom clients to make a date with yourself. Dads should do this too. Make a lunch date with your girlfriends, or go to a movie. You can even take yourself out for a nice walk, a Starbucks coffee, or buy yourself that favorite undergarment from Victoria’s Secret or that amazing lip gloss you’ve wanted. You’re not breaking the bank but rather, its about spending quality time with one of the most important, special and valuable people you know. You! But here’s the catch – No electronics!
6. Is there such a thing as “balance”?
I get asked this question all the time, and I always say yes, there can be, when and if you allow yourself the space to breathe and let some things go until later or tomorrow. The best thing to do is to map out your day, and structure your week from stat to finish. That means, create a schedule for you that works with your lifestyle and commitments, and get your older children and significant other involved. Of course, it’s easier to ask your partner to help out rather than your kids, because we are convinced they complete a task incorrectly. And to that, I always say, “So what!” So what if it’s not done the way you would do it? At least it’s getting done. Now you are able to get a little balance and free up your time.
7. At what age do you think that children are really affected by their parent’s behavior?
Babies as young 10 months are attuned to your tone and will respond accordingly. Sometimes babies will mirror behavior or will act still and quiet as they attempt to assess if their situation is safe or dangerous. We have to remember, as Adlerian Psychology explains, that children are hard-wired to emulate the behavior around them, kind of a monkey-see, monkey-do effect. When we raise our voices, yell, or scream, we’re giving license to our children to repeat the same behaviors. We can’t say that as a parent, we have different rules. Children are also wired to have their own buckets of power which are also filled with fairness, respect, and dignity. How you treat children will affect how they treat others, including you. Our job as parents is to empower. The best way to do this is lead by example in every way possible.
8. Why would you recommend counselling to parents?
When your current approach isn’t working, coaching and counselling for parents can be invaluable as it can help with learning new skills, strategies, and techniques. Counselling can help you get out of a rut when you find that no matter what you’re doing, the behavior just isn’t correctable. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of stepping out of your box and seeing a little bit of the forest, when you part the trees. Other times, it may be that mom and dad are having a hard time and those issues are interfering with successful parenting and the family dynamic. Counselling can help you deal and cope with issues and there are many in life.
9. Why is it important to ask for help?
The hardest thing to do is to ask for help, because when we do, we’re acknowledging that we can’t manage. That’s hard on the ego. I was there once too—it was so difficult for me to ask for help. But I did it. It saved everything, including my sanity and the health and wellness of my family. The nicest thing about asking for help is that it puts you ahead of everyone else who hasn’t. Now that you asked for help – the hardest part is over. Now you are halfway to achieving happiness, learning positive parenting skills, as well as effective and successful communication. All you need to do is pick up the phone or text a few characters. If you feel like your struggles are bigger than you, or getting the better of you, it’s OK and it’s time to ask for help.
10. How can counselling help families?
Coaching and counselling can bring families and individuals together so that the family dynamic is harmonious, happy, and everyone learns how to get along. In counselling, families are made aware of what the rules and expectations are, what the negotiables and non-negotiables are, and how everyone can work toward the common goal of happy. No family is perfect, and there will most certainly be ups, downs, challenges and pit falls. But armed with the right tools, and the “know-how” about how to handle these situations when they arise, counselling can ensure a family dynamic that is kind, calm, thoughtful, and happy.
In practice for over 12 years, Lauren Millman is a highly sought-after Toronto Marriage & Relationship Coach and Counsellor, Mental Health Practitioner and Parenting Specialist, and is a member of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Lauren is a regular guest contributor on TV’s Rogers Daytime! York Region, and The Mediation Station. She has also been a guest on SiriusXM Radio Canada. Lauren is an international best- selling author, writes regularly for several online publications including Brazenwoman, PinkandBlue North America, and SiriusXM Canada, and was recently featured in the Toronto Star. Lauren continuously gives back to the community. In 2014, Lauren was the Recipient of the International Women In Leadership Award.