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9 ways to manage your fear + anxiety—and become a more peaceful parent

As we grow tiny souls in our bellies, it's much more exciting to take breastfeeding classes, a birthing course, or even DIY wallpaper classes at Home Depot to plan the perfect nursery… but planning for fear, anxiety and anger? Not so much.

At least that's what I always thought before real humans (who quickly turned into toddlers that screamed "NO" with explosive tears and meltdowns), were actually entrusted to my care.

I had always thought I'd handle parenthood with total ease and calm because that's who I was. I had always been great with kids, but we all know it's different once you have your own, a lesson I definitely learned when things took a sharp turn south for me as a mom the year I had my second colicky baby and my first child's strong-willed soul reached its record-breaking peak at age 3.

Fear, anger and anxiety became my everyday go-to emotions, and my back-breaking norm.

After working with thousands of parents through the years, I know that these three strong emotions catch a lot of moms by surprise and it makes sense. Most of us didn't grow up in homes that taught us how to take care of ourselves and act with integrity when we got angry, felt anxious or were scared of something.

We grew up thinking happy was good and sad, angry and scared was bad. Do anything to avoid those and if they did come up, get out and away from them fast.

Building a solid preparation kit for how to identify and manage these strong emotions is essential in finding more peace in parenthood.

These nine tips and tools can help you navigate through these feelings with integrity to get you to a place where even the most challenging of parenting situations are handled with great purpose, intention, confidence and calm.

1. Practice a pause and connect with your heart.

  • Take a break from: Reacting like a volcano.
  • Try: Responding as an EMT driver would.

Many times, when a strong feeling of anger, anxiety or fear pops up, we have zero space between the stimulus (misbehavior) and our reaction. When we react so quickly, we squash our chances of purposely planning our next steps.

When something triggers you, take notice of your blood boiling, or your urge to yell, or your teeth clenching… and just pause to practice a heart connector. Put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and find a healthy intention (to teach, to model, to redirect), then respond to the challenging situation.

2. Ask yourself why. 

  • Take a break from: Assuming you know why your child misbehaved.
  • Try: Getting curious and asking questions.

It can be so easy to think we know what is going on, but often, our kids are here to teach us just as much as we are teaching them. When we slow down to "seek to understand" why they're upset, or the reason behind a sibling squabble, or the feelings they felt when they talked back, we open our hearts to working with our kids and many times get surprised by what we learn.

Trusting that our kids are not out to get us, but instead just figuring out how to live this thing we call life, leads us to want to understand them versus assuming we know their negative intentions.

3. Dive headfirst into empathy.

  • Take a break from: Thinking I would never or seeing your child as so different than you.
  • Try: Imagining what it must feel like to be in their shoes.

We were kids once and we've all had those times in life where you just hated having a little brother, or just really disliked math, or really, really wanted to have soda with dinner every night.

Exercising your empathy muscles will cause you to feel connected with your kiddo and will do wonders to soften your heart while also helping your child feel understood (causing them to listen and behave better).

4. State your feelings aloud. 

  • Take a break from: Internalizing everything and skipping over feelings.
  • Try: Saying aloud, "I feel _____"

Our feelings are meant to be felt, but since many of us didn't grow up with this truth, it can be easy to skip over them and move right to actions we regret when we feel angry, anxious or scared.

Slowing down to say aloud how you feel helps your brain remember, This is a feeling and I have a choice with how I process and manage it. Saying your feelings aloud also models to your kids what healthy emotional intelligence and management looks like.

5. Ask for help. 

  • Take a break from: Thinking you have to do it all alone.
  • Try: Asking your kids or spouse for what you want after you've stated how you feel.

When we get angry, we can create a pseudo sense of power with actions like yelling, controlling or forcing, that later make us feel guilty and shameful. Combining verbiage of "I feel like...", with "I want..." will help you feel powerful at the very same time you are feeling powerless (which will lead to you feeling better).

Asking for what you want is important to model for your kids too as we want our children to grow up being able to ask for what they want instead of always telling people what they don't want.

6. Walk away if needed. 

  • Take a break from: Thinking the problem is a life or death situation.
  • Try: Stepping to the side to self-calm.

It's beyond easy to get caught up in the busy rat-race style of life where every day is a rush, every moment of the week is filled, and every situation needs to be handled in a rush. But it's important to slow down and think through the way we show up, especially when challenges arise.

Rushing through conflict resolution doesn't work well. Effective problem solving takes place once we are calm, so be sure you and your children have built a self-calming bag (a tool taught inside of The Fresh Start Family Foundations Course) to use when you feel anxiety, fear or anger rising. Step to the side, do some things to take care of yourself and then come back to the situation when you're ready to be a teacher.

7. Try it again.

  • Take a break from: Quitting when things don't go perfectly the first time.
  • Try: Consistently trying to look inward and model what you want, even after failure.

Many parents jump off the train way too early when trying new positive parenting tools. Kids (just like adults) often have trouble transitioning to new things. Switch it up and everyone gets a little confused.

First time application can be like a new deer learning to walk with shaky legs. Slipping and falling is part of the journey but doesn't mean it's not working. Expect messiness, embrace messiness, learn from messiness, keep trying.

8. Experiment with silence. 

  • Take a break from: Believing the myth that sometimes you have to yell to get your child to listen.
  • Try: Walking over and using loving touch, a warm smile and silence (or one word).

Silence and fewer words can be incredibly effective at getting kids to listen, especially if they're used to an adult who yells when angry. Raising our voice can be exhausting, so save your energy and instead use it to walk up and look your child in their beautiful eyes and touch them softly on their shoulder or offer a warm hug.

The connection this process brings will help bring you down to room temperature with your emotions while also moving your child to listen and cooperate better.

9. Give yourself credit. 

  • Take a break from: Berating yourself about the times your fear, anxiety or anger has flared up.
  • Try: Keeping track of all the times where your hard work and efforts to learn and grow have paid off.

Beating ourselves up over our moments of complete messiness doesn't help us learn and grow. When you try new things like:

  • Empathy instead of nagging
  • Silence instead of yelling
  • Responding instead of reacting
  • Walking away instead of hurting
  • Asking for help instead of silently wishing others would change
  • Feeling your feelings before jumping into action…

...acknowledge your courage and success. Share with someone how proud you are of yourself and how much work it took to even try some new things with your kids, emotions and parenting.

Writing in your journal each night is a great way to do this, or even saying to yourself while you brush your teeth three things you slayed today will help you see your magnificence and remind you that even amidst anger, fear and anxiety, joy and growth can exist.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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