Preparation: Let your child know you may leave the room at times to address feelings.
Scene set up: The challenges of life are getting to you and while you are trying to be patient with the behavior you find extremely annoying in your child, you can feel anger burning in your body. You don’t want to spout off or ignore the situation at hand.
The usual action: Attempting to manage your emotions, you start controlling your child and try to hold in the anger until it pops out like a surprise tornado. Not good, for anyone.
The replacement action: Notice the sensation of anger rising and take it as your cue to smoothly exit the room or space. If you can’t leave the room, go at least a couple of arm’s reach away from others. Notice your breath and communicate that you are smoothly exiting now and will be back with the situation at hand when you feel a bit more grounded.
If you have already made a special notebook (of helpful quotes and thoughts), pull it out while you implement SAFE.
Notice how your body feels and bring attention to your breathing. Ask yourself, “What am I resisting right now? What don’t I like about this situation?” Next, continue noticing how you feel and ask yourself what you want instead. If you are finding your answer to be kind of narrow, such as wanting the child to just obey, see if you can open it up a bit more for something like, “I want to figure out a solution that works for me and my child, where we both feel respected.” When you feel ready, re-enter the space and communicate what feels important to you.
What you’re doing: You are modeling self-control and self-respect as you respect the experience of others. You are also preventing mayhem. For parents who are inclined to violence, a smooth exit may be necessary for quite a while when you feel pressure. Instead of rushing out in a rage, you communicate that you decide how to handle your feelings and that you will connect with the family again when you can respond intentionally.
How you can stop yourself from trying this: Feeling like you can’t sense the split second movement from irritation to explosion (if you can’t, practice in meditation and use blow ups as an opportunity for awareness – watch yourself blow up and gradually notice irritation rising before you blow so you can sense it earlier and exit earlier).
Potential results: You transform a potential blow up into an opportunity for reflection, relaxation, emotional responsibility, positive modeling, and connection.
So… exit smoothly when helpful.
The Smooth Exit is part of Navigating Emotions for Parents — an ebook collection of exercises to help parents meet emotions in new ways.
If you are experiencing anger more often than you’d like or find the intensity to be hindering your relationship with your child and/or others around you, here are some additional resources that may help…
- Diffusing Parent Anger – A Raw Letter From Me to You
- S.A.F.E. – A Tool To Feel What You Feel Fully and Safely
- 25 Things I Can Do When I Feel Angry
- Sane Parenting Challenge
- Private Sessions
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this ebook or challenge.