Mama, I know you already have so much on your plate, and creating a peaceful home in the midst of all the chaos can seem like an impossible task, but I want to give you some encouragement. You can cultivate a happy home where everyone can thrive by taking small steps each day.
Having a peaceful home is different for everyone—for some that means keeping a tidy home, for others it can mean Feng Shui decor at every corner of the home, or only playing stress relieving music at bedtime with candles. Find out what peacefulness means to you and stick with it.
By focusing on yourself, your family's emotions, communication patterns and overall atmosphere, you can begin to make small changes that will bring more peace and joy to your home. Here's how:
1. Get to know what brings you peace
Understanding who you are and what has shaped you throughout your life is important for cultivating peace within yourself because it allows you to take control of your story and grow into who you want to be.
We all have unique stories and events that shaped our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Much of what shaped you happened in childhood where you had little to no control over your life, and the things you came to believe about yourself and others then may not be serving you well today.
Everything that you have experienced is bound together, attached to your identity, and encoded in your brain circuitry. Unconsciously, you can continue well into adulthood letting others fill the pages while you sit idly by, or you can take ownership of your story and challenge what has been written by others without your permission.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started:
- What are the events and relationships that shaped who you are today?
- What has been the turning points of your life?
- What successes and failures have created your current outlook about possibilities for your future?
- What do you need to let go of in order to find greater joy?
2. Find ways to nurture yourself
We all know that self-care is important, but it often seems hard to attain. That's why practical self-care is necessary. When my children were little, I would scoff at such ideas as "sleeping when the baby sleeps" which I just physically couldn't do no matter how tired I was, but I finally learned an important lesson about self-care and that was I had the ability to define what it meant for me. I didn't need to follow anyone else's rules, and I didn't need to steal hours to myself to feel renewed.Catching up with friends didn't have to mean a book club meeting. It could be a 10-minute Facetime chat. Date night didn't need to include reservations. Sitting on the deck together with take-out was fine with us. Importantly, I learned I could be just as rejuvenated by laughing with my kids as I was by pampering myself with a deep conditioning treatment and facial mask. Self-care is really a matter of perspective and, yes, gratitude. Once I let go of unrealistic ideas about self-care, it became easy to find practical acts that nourished by mind, body, and spirit.
- Exercise: Maybe an hour at the gym isn't feasible, but you can have a dance party with the kids. You can throw in a few push-ups while your child lays on the floor. Jump rope with your kids or break out those hula hoops. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day will make a difference in how you feel.
- Play: Sometimes playing with our kids can feel like a chore, but it is possible to train your mind to see play as a positive experience. To combat boredom, find ways that let your inner child come out. Jump in puddles. Paint together. Sled down hills or make up silly songs.
- Keep a book of joy: The benefits of gratitude journals are well-documented and proven to make you feel happier. Create your own personalized happiness book. Write what you are grateful for each day as a start and keep going. Fill it with doodles or photos, quotes or profound thoughts. Record funny moments, proud moments, and moments that take your breath away.
3. Accept emotions + be an emotion coach to your kids
Most parenting resources focus on discipline, but did you know that world renowned researchers Drs. John and Julia Gottman have determined two predictors for how children will turn out and it's not about using the right consequences? The two predictors are emotional regulation and social relationships. Gottman says that it isn't discipline that teaches these but "magic moments." Magic moments are moments of connecting with children when they are emotional. It is through connecting during magic moments that parents can really influence how children feel about themselves and about the world.
How to be an emotion coach:
- Help children label their emotions: In order to be able to regulate emotions, children must first understand them—what they feel like, what brings them on and what to do when they feel them.
- Validate and accept all of your child's emotions: Empathizing with your child even when misbehavior has occurred shows that you understand what they feel. And remember this is part of that magic moment where you are connecting with the child during an emotion. Ignoring or scolding can actually disconnect us and causes us to miss magic moments.
- Set limits for misbehavior: Accepting your child's feelings does not imply accepting their behavior. Communicate your feelings about the action versus their character. Explain what is acceptable and unacceptable, give a reason for the limit setting and emphasize the specific positive behaviors that are needed. When problem-solving, remember that there are two sets of goals, yours and your child's and work to find a solution that meets both sets of goals.
4. Use positive communication
Positive communication is an essential part of all healthy relationships. It builds mutual respect, trust, connection and nurtures your child's self-esteem. The parent/child relationship is the first place for learning what respectful communication and healthy relationships look like. Therefore, when we set the standard for positive communication early on, children develop the skills that will help them build healthy relationships throughout their lives. Here's how:
- Practice active listening: When parents are quick to brush off a child's thoughts and feelings or to jump in with advice, communication shuts down. Active listening means listening attentively without interrupting while you seek to understand the words, emotions and experiences of the speaker. Remember: Children often just need to feel heard and understood.
- Speak respectfully: "Clean that up now!" "What were you thinking?!" "I said no!" Would we ever speak to peers? Speaking to children this way isn't necessary. Instead, set a standard in your home that leads to peace.
- Get on their eye level: Being on eye level conveys interest and attention, which enhances connection and opens up the lines of communication. Imagine what it would feel like to talk with someone who is towering over you.
- Manage your own emotions: Being in tune with and in charge of your own emotions is key to positive communication. By remaining calm and positive, your child will feel comfortable talking with you, and you'll model maturity and emotional regulation.
5. Tend to the atmosphere in your home
Cultivating a peaceful home is much like growing a beautiful garden. It must be intentionally tended to regularly in order to flourish. This means pulling weeds (getting rid of bad habits, toxic behaviors and nasty attitudes), tending the soil (giving your children the right environment to grow, which includes safety and attachment) and watering daily (giving affirmations, connecting daily).
It also means that we pay attention to our own moods and how it affects our family. This requires parents to grow in emotional maturity so that our moods and behaviors don't spoil the atmosphere of the home. Emotional maturity means:
- Self-awareness of our moods, attitudes, behaviors and how those affect our families
- The ability to self-regulate
- Actions guided by purpose and vision
It's important to possess an inner vision of what is important to you in motherhood and in life and to be guided by that vision. Otherwise, you may just blow wherever the wind takes you. I believe it's crucial to reset your mind daily in alignment with your vision. To draft your own vision, think about the following questions:
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- What is your main goal as a mother?
- When your children tell their children about the days when they were growing up, what do you want their stories to be?
- List several words to describe the environment you hope to cultivate in your home
Tackle them one at a time over the next few weeks and journal about your experience and the changes you see.