You have all my compassion for what you’re experiencing right now It is human to struggle. It is human to anger. I believe you have the mental resources and skills you need to cope with the demands of your current situation. You will get through this challenging time, learn from it and be stronger for it.
I thought I’d share how I’d approach this if I was facing these challenges myself at this time. I am interested in how our bodies work and it feels empowering when I understand what is happening at a physiological level. It also helps take away feelings of shame that are counter-productive to the changes I want to make.
So I would read sources that explain the physiology of anger as well as the psychology of anger. I found this was a good summary and resource for understanding and managing anger in general. I also found it helpful framing anger as an emotion that tells us we need to take action to put something right. It gives us energy and motivates us to act.
One of the ways I prepare myself for challenges is writing myself a plan. I would look out for the warning signals my body sends me when I feel anger such as my heart beating faster, feeling hot and feeling tension in my body, especially my jaw. I’d put these in my plan so I am more aware of my signals. I would write down the situations that have triggered anger in the past. This would remind me of times when I need to be ready to practise my plan.
I would write down specific strategies I can realistically do to calm myself and regain control such as walking a few steps away, closing my eyes, counting, taking long deep breaths, progressively tensing and relaxing my muscles from my toes to my head, drinking a glass of water and reading coping statements back to myself.
I would write down go-to strategies I can use when my body tells me I’m ready to re-engage with my child such as putting on songs they enjoy and reading a favourite book together. This would help reduce my mental load whilst I’m still vulnerable to stress. I would choose strategies that tend to have a calming effect and I can practise often.
I would write down statements I can use to communicate clearly with my child such as ‘I’ statements e.g. ‘I need to a glass of water and then we can sort this out’ and expressing what I see and feel to set limits e.g. ‘I feel upset when I see you throw your toys because they could break or hurt someone’. Everything in the plan helps me mentally prepare even if I don’t physically pick up the plan in the moment. If there are certain strategies I want to remember I might put them up on the fridge or living room wall. There are apps such as WRAP that can be used to create plans as well.
There are times when I feel safe opening up with a friend about difficult situations such as these, but there are also times I don’t. I’ve found helplines can offer valuable support when I want confidential support or if I’m feeling overwhelmed late at night. In the UK, Samaritans offers free 24/7 call support and SHOUT offers free 24/7 text support. Family Lives offers a free helpline specifically for parenting support.
I agree with others who have mentioned the importance of forgiving yourself. You’re giving everything you can as a parent. Keep going and doing your best.