‘How did you cope with the stress of home educating?’ someone asked me recently.
‘How do you cope with the stress of anything?’ I replied.
Because it’s no different coping with home education than coping with anything as a parent. Stress is stress wherever it’s coming from. Parenting is already stressful and worrying about your child’s education is stressful, whether they’re in school or not.
Of course, parenting can also be peaceful, uplifting, tremendously rewarding, inspirational and utterly exquisite but folks don’t tend to say that much.
Besides, being stressy is far more trendy! Maybe it makes folks feel more important.
I’m not meaning to belittle stressful events and circumstances people have to endure, like all those who’ve been flooded out this year for example, or awful illnesses. But those kind of stressful disasters aside I do think that there are some people who can invent stress, who create it in themselves, who make it a lot worse than it needs to be. Sometimes this is just down to personality. Sometimes it’s the way we’ve learned to be. Sometimes it’s habit. But we can control it to a degree.
I recently heard Jenny Agutter talking in an interview about the character she plays in ‘Call the Midwife’. She plays the part of a serene and calm nun who you could never imagine being stressed. Jenny said she personally is not anything like as calm as that, but playing the part actually had a calming effect on her.
So could calmness also be a part we play? Can we create our own calmness as parents and thus calmness in our kids?
Creating calm as a parent, particularly as a home educating parent, is a fabulous thing to be doing. It creates a lovely atmosphere in the home. It teaches your children how to do it when they feel stressed. It demonstrates that we can sometimes be calm even about events that challenge us. And calm promotes wellbeing and health. That’s something that we want in our children more than stress. And it will ripple out from them and show others too.
I tried many strategies for creating calm over our parenting and home educating years. Sometimes I managed it, sometimes I didn’t! (You’ll read about those times in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – one particular tantrum I had springs to mind!) But in the end we can only ever do the best we can. A good starting point is being aware.
Some of the things I did both for me and the children’s sanity when we were getting stressed were:
- Focussing on something else for a while – really focussing – which diffuses attention from a stressful situation
- Using a distraction technique maybe telly, music, change of activity, room, environment
- Getting outside regularly
- Physical activity most days
- Mindfully slowing down in the way I did things rather than rushing
- Looking after myself as well as the children
- Making sure we all got space from each other, whether physical or mental
- Reminding myself ‘what matters most’ about what’s going on (releasing expectations)
- Letting go of needless control
- Shutting up!
We can all gradually build up a repertoire of strategies that work for each of us in different ways. We are all different after all and are coping with different scenarios. But building these calming moments means that we’re focussing more on being calm than on being stressed. Stress is just a response and we can choose other responses if we keep an awareness of them.
If we keep in mind that we create much stress for ourselves, as I believe we do much of the time, it stands to reason that we can un-create it too. We can choose a calm response – when we’re self aware.
And as a final word on it pop over to Miss Fanny P’s blog and read a story – reading being another great diffusing technique. It’ll show you how important it is to look after yourself as well as the children.
Wishing you a stress free day.