If you expected an article about how to make your kids behavior better so you could have peaceful days, you might be surprised but what I have to say.
I am a mom of five children through birth, foster care, and adoption, and have several special needs children including one with autism and frequent meltdowns. What I can tell you is I spent years trying in vain to make my kids behave better so I could have more peace.
Many of these techniques have been incredibly helpful. From routines, rewards, therapy, medication, trauma informed parenting, and diets, we have done it all. But as the behavior improvements came, I continued to lack internal peace.
I thought fixing them was the secret to happiness and peace. Turns out fixing my own heart is the secret to lasting joy and daily peace, despite diagnoses, meltdowns, and trauma.
I call it soul care, and it begins with daily mindfulness and connection with the one who created you. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a religious person. Perhaps you ascribe to the widely held view that God has a list of rules for us to follow to earn his good graces.
God is not mad at any one of us. He knows we can never measure up and threw away the rule book when he sent Jesus to cover our mess ups. We have nothing to prove any more, and we can come as we are.
Historians agree that Jesus was a man who walked the earth over two thousand years. He did some counter cultural things we can learn from as foster and adoptive parents. Even if caring for your soul is a new concept, don’t brush off the power and potential.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Mark 1:35-37 tells a story every parent who has tried to pee alone can relate to. Now that we have a house full of teenagers, this translates into trying to have an evening alone. It feels nearly impossible.
It is critical to take care of yourself and your soul, or you will be no good to anyone, least of all yourself. If Jesus the Savior of the world, fully God and fully man, sinless in every way, needed time to be alone with God, you do to.
I know you may not be sleeping well, constantly on high alert keeping a difficult child safe and alive, and feel spread thin in every way imaginable, how could you possibly fit in twenty quiet minutes to focus on God? When you learn the benefits focused meditation on God’s word and prayer can give you, my guess is you’ll find a way to fit it in most days.
A few quiet moments waiting in the carpool line, getting up 20 minutes before your family, turning on a show for the kids while you sit in another room, or instituting a quiet hour or nap time for everyone will make a tremendous difference in your stress levels and ability to cope with your difficult season.
“Prayer and meditation are highly effective in lowering our reactivity to traumatic and negative events. They are powerful because they focus our thoughts on something outside ourselves. During times of stress our central nervous system becomes hyper-activated, which thrusts us in to survival mode where we freeze, fight or flee the situation. This also shuts down our executive functioning and prevents us from thinking clearly. This is why when we’re stressed out, we can make poor decisions and act in self-destructive ways. When we sit down and engage in prayer or meditation, we are able to shift away from this frightened and stressed survival mode into an intentional state, and reengage the part of the brain that enables us to make intelligent mindful decisions.” Dr. Hokemeyer, Marriage and Family Therapist.
One study of 1300 adults found that meditation reduced the anxiety levels of high anxiety participants by nearly half within 2 weeks. [ii]
A review of several studies on the effects of mediation on depression, found that it reduces inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in the body as a response to stress, and can lead to changes in mood and induce depression. [iii]
Prayer has also been liked to improved sleep, controlling pain, fighting addictions, and reduce blood pressure.[iv]
Philippians 4: 6-8 gives us a two-thousand-year-old prescription for lowering anxiety and stress that science is now confirming.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Prayer, gratefulness, and fixing our minds on the good is the simple answer for walking out our days in peace, regardless of how dark the valley seems. If you’re anything like me, I get in the habit of being busy and running from this time alone with the Lord. My mess feels like too much to face and bring before a holy God. But God delights in our mess, and wants to meet us there, exactly as we are.
I have a notebook I copy down a passage of scripture in and then write out my thoughts to God. I have had years where I’ve read through the Bible, or a devotional book, but nothing has impacted my soul and helped me stay focused in the moment as much as writing it out.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” I love this quote by Zig Ziglar. It’s the healthiest emotion because it has the ability to physically rewire our brains and give us a natural boost of dopamine. Gratitude has also been studied to neurologically release toxic emotions, reduce physical pain by 16%, help us sleep better, regulate stress, and reduce anxiety and depression. [v]
It’s no wonder the Bible talks so much about giving thanks and being grateful. God created our brains and knows what they need. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s God’s will for your life to live with less stress, pain, toxic emotions, anxiety, and depression. Gratitude is his gift to you.
I created 6 weeks of journal worksheets with verses and gratitude prompts to fit your intense season of parenthood. You can find the journals in my book, Parenting Through Valleys. It will be everything you need to put into practice in one place, helping you feel less shame, and more joy, in just twenty minutes a day.