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

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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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I'll admit it: I love a pretty pink and blue nursery. It sounds overly cliche, but it's really classic. Traditional nursery colors are all well and good, but wouldn't it be cool to incorporate the same colors you love in your living room and bedroom in your baby's room? If you're ready to step outside the box and be a tad darring, we reached out to designers at Decorist to help us reimagine nursery color palette trends to put a spin on our existing designs.

Here are the top new nursery color palettes for 2020:

1. Mint colorways

"What's really popular are subtle mint shades paired with organic neutrals (think textural ivory and wood tones) with soft pops of black and white, creating a soothing retreat for you and your little one," says Decorist designer Meg Weber. When used in its more vibrant shades, mint can add moments of playfulness and it blends itself well to maximalist spaces. "There is a strong case for calling this shade of green, in its more subtle hues, the new grey," says Weber. "It feels updated and can act as a neutral itself while adding more dimension."

Get started with:

Pairings:

2. Blue + yellow balanced with brown + grey

It's important to remember that blue isn't just for a boy nursery, and pink isn't for girls. The color of your nursery is all about colors you like that make you feel good. You want it to be your happy place.

A blue and yellow palette is a great foundation for any nursery. "This color palette is a classic that strangely feels new again with the infusion of brown and gray furniture in fun colors and bohemian accents," says Weber. "The key is to keep a neutral ground so the blues and yellows pop in a modern way and work with bold geometric shapes. This palette is another great gender neutral option that can also grow with your tot."

Get started with:

Pairings:

3. Jewel tones + vibrant tropicals

Jewel tones are officially trending in 2020 and it feels especially fresh when paired with tropical accents and hints of blush. If you're looking for depth in your nursery, go for rich colors like sapphire, topaz, emerald, ruby and amethyst. This palette works best when executed with a maximalist approach, layering color on color and mixing bold patterns with natural materials. If you're new to the trend, and not quite sold on it, start small with a jewel tone rug. Rugs are a great way to add color without fully committing.

Get started with:

Pairings:

4. Neutral Bohemian colors with a touch of terracotta

When it comes to Bohemian colors, you'll want to look to browns, greens and grays. Think of 1970's design when creating a Boho aesthetic—it's all about mixing colors, patterns and textures. "While I'm personally not a huge fan of Boho, I do love the serene and neutral space it creates," says Decorist designer Belinda Nihill. "Layering texture rather than color is such a beautiful way to do so. For boys, I love adding leather and timber to the soft neutrals; for girls, it's the palest of blush tones."

For terracotta colors, you'll want to look for earth tones that land somewhere between orange and brown.

Get started with:

Pairings:

5. Brooding, moody hues

"Brooding hues are also trending across the board in home decor and translate beautifully to nurseries," says Weber. Moody hues like blue, green and gray undertones are soothing and can make both large and small spaces feel extra cozy. They also look lovely paired with dark greys and rust, and can be infused subtly or saturate a room.

Get started with:

Pairings:

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

Lifestyle

It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Laura Prepon is a mama x 2! 

Actors Laura Prepon and Ben Foster share 2-year-old daughter Ella and now share another "bundle of love".

Prepon announced her pregnancy back in October on Instagram:. "We are so excited to announce that our family is growing. Life is beautiful!" and has now announced her birth as well.

"Overwhelmed with gratitude." she captioned an Instagram photo of her baby.

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

News

We are constantly absorbing emotions from those around us. That's part of the reason being around kids and teens, with their roller coasters of emotion, can be so exhausting. And when our own hearts and minds are clouded by emotion, we are not showing up and responding with our wisest mind and most open heart.

Our capacity for calm in the midst of a kid's emotional storm offers hope, because it signals that calm is possible in the midst of chaos.

What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the "attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.


What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the “attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.

Learn + Play

Most nights as I put my daughter to bed, rocking her to sleep in the darkness, I find my mind wandering to all the things I need to accomplish once she's asleep. I can't forget to throw that load of laundry in the dryer. I need to make sure I finish that lesson plan. I really should mop the kitchen tonight if I have time. As a busy working parent, the mental to-do list is never-ending, and my mind is always taking inventory of all that I've accomplished, and all I've yet to get done.

But tonight as I rocked her, I looked down at my daughter's legs, which now stick out past my arms when I cradle her in the rocking chair. I recalled how my arms used to wrap completely around her tiny little body. She used to lie in my arms, swaddled tightly like a little burrito, and her entire body would fit perfectly in my arms. It feels like this was only yesterday.

FEATURED VIDEO

I blinked, and somehow my tiny, sleepy newborn became a sweet, but strong-willed toddler.

I stared down at her little face in the darkness, forgetting the list of things I wanted to accomplish once I put her to bed. I watched her eyelids flutter as she fought sleep, and I recalled all the sleepless nights we spent in this rocking chair.

I remembered rocking her back to sleep on that very first night home from the hospital, so overwhelmed with love and joy, but also plagued with exhaustion.

I thought of all the nights between then and now. The tough, sleepless nights—through growth spurts, teething, and colds—and those sweet, easy nights where she drifted to sleep effortlessly and slept the whole night through.

I watched her eyelids become heavy as she drifted off to sleep, and I snuggled her a little tighter and rocked her a little longer. The days have flown by since we brought this tiny little blessing home, and I know that time is never going to slow down.

I know that there will come a day in the not-too-distant future where my precious little girl won't want her mama to rock her to sleep anymore. She won't want to hear Goodnight Moon for the one-millionth time. She won't want me to kiss her forehead and wish her sweet dreams before tucking her into bed.

So tonight, I made sure to be present in the moment rather than letting my mind wander to the next item on my to-do list. I watched my precious girl fall asleep and I savored every moment of it. I rocked her and rocked her and then rocked her some more.

I stared at her sweet face, wishing I could freeze this moment and keep her my baby forever. But I know that the future will bring new and exciting things as well.

For the time being, I'm going to enjoy where we are right now and do my best to just be in the moment. Because the laundry will still be there in an hour or two, and if the floors don't get mopped until tomorrow, nothing is going to happen.

Right now, just being here in this rocking chair with my baby is the most important thing in the world.

Life
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