Parenting is hard.
Children are joyful, energetic, and loving; they are also often challenging, frustrating, and overwhelming. Many of us think of time-outs as a way to help our children understand when they are acting in ways that are unhelpful, harmful, hurtful, or dangerous. When this is the case, we often recognize that our children need to have a break from what is happening around them, and a chance to calm down and understand the impact of their behavior. Sometimes a parent time out is needed as well. When we put it in those terms, many of us can also relate to this need – a need to step away, take a breath, and think about the impact of how we are treating others. Advice from the Explosive Child, a book with tips for parenting challenging children, reminds us that problem-solving doesn’t occur when either the parent or the child is overwhelmed, distressed, or angry. So this is a call to all parents, with toddlers to teens – Embrace the Time Out!
Read more: Parent Stress Increases Child Stress
Read more: Self-Care and Self-Compassion Help Parenting
To start practicing the Parent Time Out, considering the following:
How do I know I need a time-out? Some indicators might be:
- I’m raising my voice.
- I’m getting sarcastic.
- I’m interrupting.
- I can feel my anger in my body.
- Things aren’t getting anywhere (or even escalating).
- I’m crying.
- I’m starting to feel out of control.
What do I do?
- Tell your child that you need to step away and take a break.
Tip: If your child is a little one, make sure that he or she is safe, or that someone else can keep an eye on him or her until you return
- Let them know how long you will be away and where you are going.
- With any child, but especially with teens, let them know that you will each return to talk about this when you have calmed down
- Find a place that is quiet.
Suggestions for things that are calming and soothing
- Take a warm shower
- Read a book
- Listen to a few good songs
- Have a cup of tea
- Talk to someone you trust or ask for support
- Sit quietly and breathe
- Practice a guided mindfulness/relaxation exercise
How do I come back after my Parent Time Out?
- Take one last deep breath before leaving your quiet space
- Approach your child to talk to them
- Be open with your child about your feelings and frustrations
- Apologize if necessary
Taking your own time-out is a great way to model noticing emotions, talking about them, and practicing good self-care and self-soothing when you are overwhelmed. Encourage your child to also indicate if they are feeling overwhelmed and need to step away. The goal is to help each of you practice getting some space and taking care of yourselves, as well as increase the chances that you can calmly problem-solve together. If you continue to find yourself overwhelmed, or need a little extra support, therapy is a great outlet that can be focused on your child, on your relationship, or just on you. Let us know if we can help.