By: Cristina Trette
Visualization is a well researched therapeutic technique that has been shown to increase performance and lower stress response. This can entail visualizing oneself in a challenging or stressful situation as a way to practice. During the visualization the individual sees himself moving through the challenging or stressful situation successfully and having a positive outcome.
If one takes the time to do mental rehearsal, lets say every night over the course of a few weeks, she will train the brain to respond to stressful stimuli more effectively. Mental rehearsal can be used to prepare one self for a variety of situations include public speaking, job interviews, athletic pursuits (my son uses visualization to prepare himself for challenging and difficult skateboarding moves). Really, the list goes on and on.
What does this have to do with parenting?
Well, parenting can be stressful. Tantrums, homework battles, defiance, and power struggles can lead to challenging moments between adult and child. Some moments are so challenging that a true stress response can take place within the body. Signs that an individual is under stress include rapid and shallow breathing, tension and tightness in the body, difficulty swallowing, and increased thirst. Have you ever noticed these sensations in your body when your child has a tantrum or when you are rushing to get out the door in the morning and your child becomes defiant?
Wouldn't it be nice if you could train yourself to respond to the stressful stimuli differently so that no matter what your child does you remain emotionally regulated allowing you to engage in effective parenting?! To get specific tips on how to practice mental rehearsal so that you can become a more responsive parent read on.
1. Select one specific challenge that you are currently encountering with your child. If you can, choose a challenge that happens frequently.
2. Next, spend a little bit of time thinking about how you react to the challenge? Do you experience stress and overwhelm? Do you yell, threaten, or punish? Or do you become permissive?
3. Now, visualize the best version of yourself engaging with your child in this specific challenging situation. What does your best mothering look like, even your kid is being difficult? See every detail. Relish in the how good it feels to parent in such a positive and responsive manner. Make sure to take long, deep breaths while visualizing.
4. Repeat step 3 over and over as much as you are able to. A great time for visualization is when you lay in bed at night after your child have gone to sleep. You only need to practice for a few minutes at a time.
5. When the real life challenge presents itself, notice how much more responsive you are. This practice works because the brain has responded to the visualization as if it happened in real life. New neural pathways were formed in the brain creating new patterns in behavior. So by the time the real life situation presents itself, you will be seasoned at sailing through the challenge with grace and ease.
I would love to hear how this practice works for you. If you try it out, let me know your experience in the comments box below!