Parenting Tip: Refilling the Metaphorical Energy Tank
Refilling the Metaphorical Energy Tank
As we are about to enter into a new season of the year, Autumn, which typically brings along with it changes in schedules and different activities, I think it’s important to remember that this can have a major impact on our children’s abilities to emotionally regulate themselves.
I’m sure you’ve had times where you are so excited to see them after school or practice and they just fall apart. Hopeful thoughts of spending relaxing family time together is replaced by meltdowns and frustration. I get it and have some insights into why this is and what you can play around with to see if it makes a difference for you and your child.
Prior to having my son, I viewed things like PE, lunchtime, recess and extracurricular activities as fun opportunities to play, get energy out and enjoy less structured time with friends. Now when I view them through the lens of someone who has sensory challenges, struggles a bit with fine motor and gross motor activities as well as needing support with social interactions when he was younger, I see just how much energy these times require in order for them to to get through them.
Energy spent trying to regulate when the gymnasium smells and sounds of balls and kids and whistles echo.
Energy spent trying to regulate when the lunchroom has a million different strong smells and kids are talking loudly, not to mention the excited energy that can be felt down the hall of a large gathering of kids who have had to sit quietly for most of the morning.
Energy spent trying to regulate at recess when social rules change constantly and expectations of doing well at a sport when your hands and feet don’t always do what you want them to do.
Energy spent trying to regulate at practice when the coach is talking about things and you are a visual learner so everything they say just flows right on through your brain and then they get frustrated when you don’t do what they told you to do.
While there isn’t anything we can do about the things that are requiring this energy spent, we can play around with how to support our children in refilling their metaphorical energy tanks. This can be done by providing time for them to do something that comes easily to them, something they enjoy and feel competent in.
Here is a list of possible ideas that I’ve created both from my experience with my son and from the experience of clients…
Baking or cooking
Running or walking
Swimming, showering, bathing
Drawing, painting, coloring, etc.
Knitting, crocheting, weaving, needlepoint or cross stitch, etc.
Gaming or Screen time (You can create a structure or place limits on this if it becomes an issue with them getting off of screens to do other things OR if it ramps them up.)
Think about what some of these things are for your child and you might even make a list so you can try different things to see if something works better than others. Also, don’t forget my three favorite questions that always help me to be more curious and flexible in parenting,
What works for my child/our family?
What doesn’t work for my child/our family?
What is one thing we can try differently the next time to see if it works better for my child/our family?
If nothing seems to work, it always helps me to have awareness around what is actually going on - my child isn’t just trying to be difficult, they have nothing left in their reserves and home is a safe place to let it all out. There are times when I just have to let the waves of my son’s strong emotions go until they are gone but when that is the case, I set boundaries for myself (mainly not taking it personally and keeping myself physically safe) despite his attempts to get me tangled up in his discomfort. I can love and support him while not getting caught up in it - not easy AND is the ultimate meditation as far as I’m concerned.
I hope this provides you with a different perspective for challenging times and that it helps you to stay calm, see what is “actually” going on (energy tank empty) and feel more prepared to support yourself and your child.