Since working on my recent podcast, “Your Family is a Work of Art,” I’ve been a little obsessed with the notion of creative parenting. I’ve been examining what it can look like in my own life, the ways it benefits my family – and how to do it more often! As I chew on this concept, consciously calling on my own creativity when I’m with my kids, my parental stress dissipates. When I parent from a creative place, we have more fun, flow and connection. Who doesn’t want more of that in family life!
For me, creative parenting means attuning to both my child’s experience and my own, in the present moment. Instead of reacting automatically, I’m trying to consciously choose to focus or shift energy in an inventive and productive way. Maybe it’s making a game to get everyone out the door in the morning, or brainstorming ideas to solve problems or boredom – basically anything we do to keep it all together involves creative parenting. More often than not, it also means noticing when to hold off on stepping in, allowing our kids space to develop their own creative resourcefulness.
The biggest challenge to responding creatively comes when I feel stressed, exhausted, or am trying to do too many things at once. As I’ve been paying more attention to how I interact with my kids, I’ve noticed a few things that help me react in a way that honors each person. Holding on to these allows me to show up as my best parenting self more often, with more ease and understanding in my family. Here are two basic things I am practicing:
Noticing How I Feel in the Moment
When I’m emotionally triggered – angry, frustrated, overwhelmed – it really hinders my ability to respond creatively to challenges. If I can stop for just a split second before reacting, that pause is often enough to interrupt my automatic reaction. Taking a breath to calm my nervous system gives my brain time to strategize, so I can back out of the immediate stress response and look a the whole picture instead. I can ask myself, “What is truly important in this moment? How can we each get a little of what we need?” Considering what is a priority, and what is possible in the situation, shifts my response from reactive to proactive – getting me back in creative problem solving mode.
Being Compassionate with Myself
Our self talk is powerful. It can have an impact in all situations, both when we mess up and when we rock it as parents. I try to remember to celebrate, or at the very least acknowledge, my good parenting moments – but also not to beat myself up when I end up yelling instead of pausing to take a breath. Reading a lot about shame, and drawing from my own experience, I know it’s much harder to choose better next time when we’ve labeled ourselves as bad parents. We are not bad parents when we screw up – we are always learning, committed to responding better next time, able to repair the relationship.
As we all know, there are no totally simple solutions in parenting, and all of our experiences are different. But simply knowing that my creativity is available to me in each moment, ready for me to tap into when I need it, has helped me so much. Finding our own ways to stay attuned to our children, ourselves, and the present moment can be a powerful tool – at each age in our kids’ lives, and each stage of our families’ development.