Triggers. We all have them. They are the emotional buttons which, when pushed usually result in a negative, and often out of proportion, reaction.
Triggers are often related to memories or the impact of things that happened in the past, particularly childhood. The stress response we have is seemingly automatic. Sometimes we might not even know what set us off but will undoubtedly be aware of the extreme emotion we feel as a result.
Enter children and parenting.
Raising young humans can be stressful at the best of times, and kids are certainly well equipped to push all the buttons.
The emotional toll of parenting can often make us more susceptible to being triggered. There are countless situations, actions or behaviour involving your child that may trigger you, including:
- Not listening
- Risky behaviour
- Food issues
- Crossing personal boundaries
Of course, everyone is different and the list is endless.
Add existing stress from work, relationships, finances, self-deprivation into the mix and you can find yourself losing it, yelling at the kids and/or feeling emotionally out of control.
Often the thing that triggered us doesn’t justify our response and we end up feeling guilty. Think about times you may have lost it over a spilt drink, uneaten meal or a refusal to put shoes on when you are already late.
So how can we deal with these triggers so they don’t impact our parenting?
Recognise your triggers – by being aware of your emotional hot spots, you are better equipped to manage your response and work through residual emotional issues. Try keeping a journal of instances you feel triggered so you can explore them further.
Be mindful when triggered – stop, take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. Deal with the situation in front of you – and the child in front of you – not the emotions of the past.
Keep your expectations realistic – of yourself and of your child. Neither of you have done this before so go gently.
Be open with your child – set personal boundaries (without sharing any trauma) and let them know how you feel. Apologise for acting in anger, hug and reconnect with them.
Get help – talk to a friend, partner or counsellor about your emotional responses and where they may be rooted. Often, talking about these things can help open doorways to resolving unhealed wounds.