There are times in everyone’s life…

That makes us yell STTOOPPP!!!!

I want off this ride!

Slow down!

For the love of all things, can someone press pause just for a second until I can catch my breath? Until I can catch up!

If you’re feeling like the ground under your feet has been shaky terrain lately, you aren’t alone. 

Parenting in and of itself is a bit of a wobbly hike through unfamiliar terrain. Picture a tangled rainforest up a steep mountain. With storms. And unknown creatures lurking. 

Yeah, it’s a great view if you can stop for a moment to look around, but when was the last time you were able to do that?

The past few weeks we have been discussing the topic of control. And how emotional regulation can actually help us regain the control we so desperately need to continue to parent the way we aspire to. 

The way that makes us feel good about how we interact with our tweens and teens. 

Reason on to learn one more key strategy to help you feel proud of the work you are doing – and how to catch that breath of air so you can look around you and enjoy the view. ​​

Self-help gurus tell us to “release control and be in the moment”. Frozen implores us to “Let it gooooo, let it goooooo” (sorry for that ear worm!). And we try. We breathe. We say mantras. And why do we do this? Because we think if “I do this…I will feel more in control of my life again”. Ha!

That sneaky desire is always there. Lurking. Let’s just admit it outright; We want control more than anything! More than a free spa vacation. More than a lifetime supply of triple shot espresso that doesn’t give us headaches. All of us are searching for ways to regain control. We grasp at whatever we can to feel in control. Control makes us feel safe. 

Control makes us think we can sidestep any adversities and future discomforts.

If we can control things, we can ensure that everything is easy. Because so so much of life is so so hard!!

Control also makes us feel we are doing the “right thing”. For our kids especially. We want to do right by them. We want to know that they will be OK. We need to know things won’t be as hard for them as they are for us. 

Control creates the illusion that we won’t make mistakes.​​

But it’s not control we’re actually seeking. It’s regulation: the ability to understand what we control, what we don’t, and to feel present, calm, and in tune with ourselves regardless of whether we have control our not. To make mistakes and recover with grace. To improve and repair relationships that have faltered. To feel confident in our efforts and outcomes.

But it’s not control we’re actually seeking. It’s regulation: the ability to understand what we control, what we don’t, and to feel present, calm, and in tune with ourselves regardless of whether we have control our not. 

What we’re actually seeking are the things we think control will promise us: peace and self-assurance. We’re seeking trust. We’re seeking a foundation that we can stand strong upon. We’re seeking the reduction in worry and anxiety that comes from having that solid foundation, knowing that storms and winds my blow but we won’t be knocked over. 

We’re seeking surety.

After a whirlwind pandemic there nothing we need more than certainty. Predictability. 

We’ve had enough spice in our life lately, thank you. Let’s have something bland for a while to re-set our palette. 

But this doesn’t actually come from control, it comes from self-regulation. 

Interestingly, seeking control can prevent us from feeling regulated. 

Why? 

Because when we are trying so hard to maintain something that we don’t actually have teh ability to maintain, we are ignoring our cues and working against “nature” or our environment. In doing so, we are actually stressing ourselves out more – causing that cortisol to rise and our body which shifts us away from emotional presence, towards physical survival. Physical survival doesn’t care HOW you go about things, just that you survive. 

Survival drives are totally ok with you screaming at your teen because you need them to listen to you because internally you are a ball of fear and anxiety. Your physical survival (aka that need to release all that energy) is happy to just get it out! Expel it regardless of relational and emotional consequences. 

Contrarily, self-regulation is about being able to adapt easily and smoothly with as little energy expenditure as possible. Because everything else in our life from work, to relationships, to parenting already takes enough energy.

Self-regulation is critical not just for your physical health – to literally bring hormones and stress chemicals and the blood pumping through your veins into balance – but it’s critical for parenting as well. It ensures that you don’t scream your message, and instead can speak it calmly and thus make it much more likely to be heard. 

Trust repaired. Message received. Relationship rescued. 

You may have heard that you should never have a conversation when you are HALTED – hungry, angry, lonely, tired, excited(anxious) or drugged – aka when you are not physically regulated! 

No conversation goes well when you are in one of these states. Your body is too focused on getting rid of the yucky internal feelings than it is with communicating in a compassionate and productive way.  When you are not regulated, conversations are not only not useful, they can be actively damaging. Requiring more effort and energy down the line to repair them. 

The foundation of healthy communication, boundaries, assertiveness, productivity, and confidence is self-regulation. It’s what enables us to give and receive love. 

It’s also what teaches your tweens and teens how to best succeed and be most effective in their life, academics, and relationships. Your emotional regulation will be their greatest teacher!

And in that sense we circle back to control. So you want control? Ok! Self regulation is literally the key to being “in control” of your life again instead of your life being in control of you. 

Emotional regulation is the first step towards helping you and your teen cope with the tough stuff so that neither of you make it worse for the other. It’s the foundation upon which your strong relationship will be built, healed, or repaired.