Raising people is not some lark. It’s serious work with serious repercussions. It’s air-traffic control. You can’t step out for a minute; you can barely pause to scratch your ankle.
I get asked a lot in my therapy sessions about boundaries and compassion in motherhood, and how you know if you’re striking a good balance between the two. This is hard to answer as it differs from person-to-person and child-to-child depending on each person’s particular needs. That being said, we do know that kids tend to thrive with a combination of rules and empathy. This combination gives them the structure they need to feel safe along with the emotional support they need to feel loved.
These are things we can be doing inside the home as well as outside of the home. As our kids are always watching our interactions, it’s important to model for them the behaviors you want them to repeat. This often starts with kindness. Kindness for those we love inside of our home, and kindness towards those we interact with outside of the home as well.
Here are a few simple ways to show kindness towards others in your life (while also modeling this behavior for your kids):
- Saying thank you
- Giving someone a hug
- Writing positive reviews
- Create time to play with your kids
- Cleaning up our environment (one piece of trash at a time)
- Removing a nail in the street so a neighbor won’t have to deal with a flat tire
- Giving an anonymous donation
- Actively listening to what others have to say
- Volunteer your time
- Show gratitude
What would you add to this list?
In my years working as a therapist, one thing I’ve noticed when it comes to boundaries is that a concept called triangulation keeps showing up. So, what is triangulation? It’s when there is emotional conflict between two people, and a third person is brought into the middle to diffuse the emotional conflict. We often see this inside the home when partners are arguing and they bring in a child to help take away some of their relational tension. We also see this outside of the home in friendships where two friends will be in conflict and will bring in another friend to get rid of some of the emotional reactivity.
What can you do about triangulation? First, recognizing that it’s happening and naming it can be helpful. Next, take care of you and your self-care needs before trying to discuss this pattern with the person directly.
This may look like:
- Using a positive mantra or affirmation
- Practicing mindfulness
- Go outside and focus on your five senses
- Doing one small things in the morning like making your bed
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings
- Slowly sipping hot coffee or tea
When you feel centered and grounded and back to yourself, then reach out to your partner (or the person you’re in conflict with) to come up with a good time to discuss what’s going on, just the two of you, and to come up with solutions together so you don’t continue the harmful pattern of triangulation when you’re in emotional conflict with one another.
If you need more help and support, consider reaching out to:
- A therapist
- Your doctor
- A community support group
- An online support group (check out www.postpartum.net)
- A friend who isn’t involved in this conflict
- A family member who isn’t involved in this conflict
- Your spiritual community
- A neighbor
Who would you add to this list?
Creating boundaries and compassion in motherhood isn’t just helpful to your kids, as they help enhance emotional connectivity for your whole family and your other relationships too!