Sometimes as a parent I find myself chasing shadows in our home life, trying to repair or address symptoms––consistent sibling squabbles, whininess, regularly unfinished chores, meltdowns, etc.––without taking time to notice something fundamental is broken or hurt in the atmosphere of our home. I’m not talking about a single meltdown or hard day; I’m referring to the days or weeks or months when the abstract connections in the home feel weathered or possibly broken altogether.
The last few weeks have felt a bit like that here. I’ve found myself as the referee between siblings too often or noticing things scattered about carelessly on the floors or counters or tables more often than not. The TV seemed to be on more than usual. The attitudes lower than usual. Meals have felt hustled. And I was exhausted, red flags everywhere shouting pay attention. I talked with Mark about it and we opted to try a small process we used when our children were younger and I felt overwhelmed: set aside a few days for focused, intentional training. Training sounds like such an intense word, but all it is: reestablishing the order and peace of the home. The goal isn’t to lead perfect lives; it’s to heed the red flags as helpful guides letting us know some things need to change. Today always offers a fresh start and new mercy. When life feels chaotic, here is what we do to cultivate peace in our home again.
Clear your schedule for a few days. Set aside 2-3 days for full relational attention and care. No playdates or trips to the grocery. No friends over for dinner or answering emails or checking social media. Create space for full attention and care. If you work full-time out of the home, consider taking a personal day attached to a weekend. If you work from home, plan to keep specific and clear hours for a few days. Sometimes simplifying time restraints can immediately calm the emotions in the home.
Begin with tidy spaces. Clutter promotes stress and works against peace in the home. It just does. This isn’t a mantra or a flag touting a perfect home either, but sometimes when our homes become littered with little things on the surfaces and floors, it effects our home emotionally more than we know. I’m still learning the balance of living with my children (when all the things come out) and keeping things in their place, but I always find it helpful when we begin to feel disconnected emotionally, to begin with tidying our spaces. If this feels like too much, simply walk around the house with a box or bag, collecting things and put it into a closet for now. The goal is a quick clean-up to focus relationally, not to necessarily clean out your house. Mark that for another date. (Makes note.)
Limit or eliminate screen time for these days. Screen time can be a wonderful way to connect as a family, and also a way to buy a mother of young children 30 minutes of quiet. But it can become a slippery slope in our home, so when emotions are high, it’s easiest to eliminate screens from the equation for a bit. So instead of snuggle movie night, we’ll enjoy game night or playing HORSE on the basketball goal together. Instead of video games, we’re enjoying tether ball matches and skateboarding outdoors. This also helps heal broken bonds.
Offer heaps of affection. This seemed particularly important when my children were young and would become consistently whiny or throw regular tantrums. Many times, they simply needed more positive quality time with me, reminders of their safe place with us and at home. But older children need large amounts of affection from their parents, too, something I forget a bit as they grow and exert more independence. Holding time strengthens connection and also reassures children (of all ages) that they’re loved and safe. So during these 2-3 days I snuggle my children even more, and try to make space for alone time with each of them, a time for each to feel heard.
Hold value boundaries more tightly. Things can seem simpler in our minds or plans than they are when carried out. I can know our children need sleep and become distracted during bedtime routines, often prolonging them. I can know our children need more whole foods and yet still cave and offer goldfish or easy processed snacks. When there’s an argument or some harsh word exchanged between siblings, I can delay in addressing it because I’m busy doing something else. This is life. But during these few days, Mark and I focus to reinforce the boundaries we value. Bedtime routine begins a little earlier, allowing for a slower pace. Strife, harsh words or physical outbursts of any sort are addressed immediately. Eating becomes a little cleaner, and so on. This part work because of the heaps of affection being poured out at other times. One part establishes structure for them; the other part establishes the loving context. Since young children are really concrete, it is particularly helpful for them to have immediate consequences and rewards, and heaps of affection and snuggling for context.
Infuse the air with uplifting scents and sounds. It seems small, but turning on uplifting music and diffusing the air with essential oils can quickly help calm emotions and shift the mood of the home. On harder days, rubbing some right on your neck (or theirs) can help, too. Some of my favorite oils to diffuse are:
- orange, clove, and frankincense
- lavender and eucalyptus
- bergamot and lavender
- ginger, orange, and cedarwood
- YL Stress Away or Peace and Calming II blends