Parenting Tips for the New School Year by Rachel Heitman


Parenting Tips for the New School Year

A clean slate, a new year, a fresh start. This year I am going to be organized, my family will be organized, I am going to stay calm, and things are going to be different. How many times have we said this? And then your child criticizes the dinner you made, they roll their eyes at your “have a good day” well wishes, and your third cheerful request to do their homework is met with sloth-like momentum-and it feels personal?
I understand. Really, I do. I am a parent, a licensed professional counselor, and I am trained in child-parent relationship counseling. I know how hard it can be to keep your cool and I also understand how children benefit when we can remain calm and steady. How do we learn to be nonreactive when it feels personal? Here are a few things to think about.



Your child/teenager is dysregulated. They are experiencing upset: either stress, disappointment, sadness, or a lack of control. As a parent, we want to be a calm and steadying presence for them. Neurologically children learn through co-regulation. My clients know I love to say, “be the thermostat, not the thermometer.” Their upset is not about us. But they are upset, and if we remain neutral, we create a dynamic where we actually might be able to help them figure out what is really going on.

I love this analogy.
You’re on a plane in violent turbulence. The captain comes on and says:
A) You’re the worst passengers ever-you’re in trouble.
B) Just think happy thoughts, there isn’t anything going on here.
C) I am well trained-this plane is built to fly and we are going to get through this safely.

Which one promotes trust and builds relationships?

Fill your own Emotional Tank

When you are feeling disrespected and unappreciated remember two things. a) It is not your child’s job to make you feel good. In fact, it gives them too much power in the relationship. As parents, we are responsible for our own emotional well-being. A lot of people say that parenting is the hardest job. If you are present and actively engaged-it really is hard! We must be able to fill our emotional tanks, a sense of worth cannot come from our kids.

 Slow Down

If we can slow our reaction down, we can ask the broader more important question, “what is really going on here?” Sometimes the answer is my child is tired, afraid, left out, needs attention, or wants more control. Sometimes, the answer includes us figuring out our own triggers. I want my child to play sports, or be invited to parties, or have “every” opportunity, or have the same amount of respect that I did for my parents.  Whatever the answer is, a desire to understand promotes healing in relationships. Instead of a power struggle fracture that occurs when we only focus on fixing the outward behaviors.


I’ve Got You

Lastly, remember the message you want to send is that you can handle big things. “I’ve got you” and your emotions and moods and problems are not too much for me. When they are 16 and they are at a party and their ride has been drinking you want your children calling you and believing that you are there for them unconditionally.


I hope this year brings us back into the community and back to discovering our innate strengths and joys.

Rachel Heitman