A Guide on How to Manage Chaos with Children
To Fight or to Flow
When caring for children, chaos lurks around every corner. The possibility for chaos is imbued in the general nature of parenthood. Raising children can be overwhelming and your patience may be tested, often. Learning how to not only manage chaos effectively but to thrive amidst chaos is important for you and your families empowered well-being. You cannot control everything your child will do or how he or she may be feeling and acting on a particular day. Similarly, you cannot control every moment of the day in your drive to be a perfect parent. Parenting is a practice. Sometimes, the most effective way to manage chaos is to surrender to its flow rather than fight.
Rather than allowing chaos to spin you into a tizzy of surmounting stress, ease into an acceptance that all will be okay. You can learn how to stop fighting chaos and thrive in its depths. The most important thing, at the end of the day, is you and your child’s feelings of happiness and connection.
Take out the Shoulds
Often, the source of chaos is a parent’s feelings of how they should be parenting. These shoulds may stem from experiences as a child, seeing how others parent, or from advice on parenting. Many parents take on the endless demands that come with raising children, having a job, and keeping a household with the expectation that if they do not do all these things perfectly then they have failed. It can be challenging to feel out of control when it comes to your children’s behavior, especially when you feel things should be going differently. When you remove the shoulds from the situation you will be able to set your expectations for yourself and your child with an authentic understanding of everyone’s needs.
When you should yourself and your abilities as a parent you are comparing yourself to a fantasy version of yourself. You do not need to do this. You are enough. You are a good parent.
To learn more about how to take the shoulds out of parenting read my article, Stop Shame & Empower Authenticity.
The Importance of Play
A factor that contributes to chaos is an overly busy schedule. Parents are feeling an ever-increasing pressure to promote early learning through regimented and rigorous means. With the increased exposure to (social) media, parents are seeing many children displaying abilities beyond what is developmentally appropriate. It is great that some 2-year olds can play the piano. That does not mean that you are doing something wrong as a parent if your child cannot nor does it mean that there is anything wrong with your child.
Children learn best through play. Pack your schedule with playful possibilities. Incorporate learning into play rather than taking away from play to learn.
Play also gets pushed to the side by parent’s desires to keep the house clean and organized. While it is certainly true that having a neat house can help minimize feelings of chaos, trying to control a constant state of clean can be impossible and contribute to feelings of overwhelm.
When children play, things get messy and disorganized. This is an unavoidable part of raising children. Accept the mess and you will feel less overwhelmed and stressed out. When children are done playing or it is time to move on to another activity, that is when it is time to cleanup.
The easiest way to handle playtime messiness is to include your child in clean up! You do not have to clean up the whole house on your own. You can even make cleaning up fun! Make sure to teach your child to put away toys when he or she is done with them (for tips on how to do this read this article). Also, plan to stop play 5-10 minutes early so you and your child can clean together so you will have less of a mess later.
Take as many moments as you can to be present with your child, to offer your undivided attention. Even a few moments of complete connection can revive you both and decrease the negative feelings that can build with chaos.
Counter Chaos with the Calm of Nature
Find time throughout the day to play in nature. Nature holds innumerable benefits for child development and the well-being of your family as a whole. One relevant benefit of playing in nature is a sense of calming and grounding. When you and your child feel calm and grounded chaos will be unable to cavort into your life.
Take off your child’s shoes and allow for barefoot play! If you are in an area where it would be unsafe for children to play barefoot, encourage your child to touch the ground often. When our feet come into contact with nature we interact and connect with the world in a new way, this is called earthing. When earthing occurs there is a transference of electrons from the earth to your body. Not only does earthing feel good but it also benefits your mind, body, and soul in ways that are supported by science. The electrons that flow up into your body neutralize free radicals, promoting self-regulation of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems to crush the effects of chaos.
Check out my upcoming article on the benefits of earthing for children.
While in the midst of chaos, fighting the flow will only make you feel more overwhelmed. Life will feel as though it is spiraling out of control. As you fight you will most likely begin a free fall into the pit of negative emotions chaos can create. This is where routines save your sanity.
Routines are like trampolines. When you are falling into the pit of chaos (and dirty laundry), the trampoline will be there to soften your landing and bounce you back into safety. When you surrender into chaos and enjoy the ride, your established routines will support you. You may even end up having fun along the way.
Make a chart
Having your routine written down and hung in a central location is a great reminder. It is also a very helpful tool for children. Just like adults, children love knowing what comes next during the day. When children have a clear understanding of the structure of the day everything will flow more smoothly. Make sure to have the schedule at a height where your child can easily see it (you may need to get on your knees to change your perspective).
Give yourself plenty of time
When I am planning schedules for children or preschools I always give at least 15 minutes of transition time between routines and activities. This time includes clean up, last minute bathroom trips, time to gather snacks, time to get into the car etc…. Always give you and your child plenty of time for transition. Even if it means you have to end playtime. Rushing through transitions is chaotic and will make everything more.
Make it fun
Playing music or using a timer during routines will make them significantly more fun. When you and your child are having fun, feelings of chaos will disappear.
Especially as children get older, they love to express their independence. Use this to your advantage! Take as many opportunities as you can to let your child take on some control and work. Give your child a job to do as part of the routine.
If you have a chart for your routine, you can use magnets or a check list, so your child can mark off what they have accomplished. At first, this may cause the routine to move a bit slower as your child learns to master new skills but in the end it will benefit you and your child. Give yourself more time so that no one feels rushed through the routine, that would only add to the chaos.