“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” – Maya Angelou
This is my favorite quote. Ever. As a woman, wife, mom, friend, speaker, life coach – whatever role I’m in, I long to thrive. To live my life fully, with joy and humor, no matter what comes my way. To be courageous in challenges. To be radiant from the very core. That’s the me I see in my mind.
And then I wake up.
Because in real life, it’s often 2 parts surviving to every 1 part thriving. Especially this week! You know… The kind where you wake up every morning with a new choose-your-own-disaster awaiting you? For me, it was the kind where my 7-year-old daughter stashed multiple pairs of urine-soaked clothes behind her bathroom door and then yelled at me when I responded to her later questions with, “No, I don’t think today is a good day to have a candy bar.”
Or when my oldest’s mood was so askew that “Good morning, honey,” received a yelling retort: “You hate me! Get away from me!” (This was my EIGHT year old. I will be secretly moving out-of-country when she hits her teen years).
Such is life with adoption-related attachment struggles and special needs kids. So yesterday I sent the older girls to respite care for the weekend. Because in order to thrive, our family needed a break from the turmoil. Some space to be who we are without frequent interruption by tough behaviors. To do more than just survive.
And what did my 4-year-old do first? Freak out. Hit her little sister. Try to bite dad. At least for the first few hours, until she found her smile while inside a warm bath, neck-high in “princess bubbles.”
Oops. Guess we needed that break a little earlier! I thought.
Which leads me to this week’s point: PLAN “THRIVING BREAKS” FOR YOU… AND YOUR KIDS. You know how long everyone tends to be able to handle each other peacefully in your family, so put some “thriving breaks” on the calendar on days and times that will help stave off some of the summer meltdowns.
And when it’s not on the calendar, but you feel like running for the hills because even surviving isn’t working, here are a few ways to create “thriving breaks” on short notice:
1. Change the scenery: Go to the park, beach, or for a walk around the block. I do this almost every day when things heat up with my kids. The distraction and fresh air, coupled with the exercise, put us on track again for while. Changes in scenery often provide new conversation opportunities too – which helps our family thrive together as we learn or explore new things.
2. Take control of the background noise: Put on some music that you like or sing a song with the kids. When one of my girls is melting down in her room upstairs, the rest of us put on fun music and sing together in another part of the house. It gives everyone a break from the stress of the meltdown, and lifts everyone’s moods almost instantly. And it encourages the one who’s tantruming upstairs to settle down and be able to come back and play with the family.
3. Change the social dynamics: Host a play date at a local park, meet a friend and her child to go grocery shopping together, or invite over a friend’s child and send one of yours to their family’s house for an hour. We do this frequently since it changes the interactions between all kids involved, brings in a new way of playing, and often results in less fighting between my kids. (I said often, not always…)
4. Institute “calm time”: This is for everyone, including mom. Thirty minutes to an hour of time to relax and read or nap – whatever each person needs to have a break in the day. We play soft music in the background, and the kids know that when the music ends, calm time is done. I have the kids pick the CD and I rotate where each child spends the time so it’s different every week. We have a “calm box” for each of our older girls, and it’s filled with special workbooks, markers, card games, and quiet toys that they only use when it’s calm time.
5. Get a sitter: All of the ideas above incorporate breaks into the day with the kids. But of course one of the best breaks is in taking time to reconnect with yourself apart from them. Find a neighbor, a local high school student, a family member, a professional sitter or someone else you trust and get out of the house for at least an hour a week by yourself. On weeks I don’t do this, I think I’m fine, but in reality I am less patient, less playful, and less grateful for my kids. Which is definitely NOT thriving!
What ways do you incorporate your own “thriving breaks” with your families? Let’s build a list together!