Setting Limits Before I Lose It: Reflections of a Parent Who is Moving

We’re in the middle of a giant move right now. We’re selling off, donating, or giving away about 95% of our possessions in preparation for a worldschooling travel – work on the road – adventure with my 12 year old and, honestly, it has us all a little tense. The oldest of the kids are spreading their wings and moving out on their own. My oldest, who is 17 and has one more year of high school left, will be staying with his dad for a little while so he can keep working and going to school. Oh, and we all had about a month to work out all the details since our landlord is selling our house.

As I’m going through all my worldly possessions, there are times I am a little bit… testy? Lacking patience? Exhausted?

We’re trying to find our own way through this crazy time and we have kids who we’re trying to support through this process. And, yes, we’re finding ways to properly motivate said kids as respectfully as possible to go through their things to be ready for the yard sale Saturday and to be ready for the day in a couple weeks when everything else goes into storage. And, for many reasons, this perfect storm of a short time frame and many people has me thinking a lot about limits and boundaries. I don’t want to lose it with my kids any more than I absolutely have to. Because it’s going to happen. I’m not perfect on my best days and these are not my best days.

I think this is so applicable to all parents, whether you’re in the middle of a big transition or not, especially with older kids.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Make sure that you clearly express your expectations. This means not just in your head, but making specific requests out loud. So many times, I believe I have said something to my child, but I didn’t communicate effectively and then I’m angry because it wasn’t done or didn’t happen. Or I didn’t make it specific enough. My 12 year old is super literal (and I think he enjoys being really literal to cap it off), so he lets me know SPECIFICALLY what I said to him, for better or worse. And honestly, sometimes I’m not very clear. He at least has a chance of cooperating if I’ve let him know what needs to happen.
  2. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. What needs to happen so that you can keep your cool? When things are too stressful, we’re more likely to lose it with our kids. It’s just the way it is. When we say that something is okay with us when it isn’t really, we’re more likely to become that lunatic parent with the head that spins all the way around. Not our best moments. So if you’re really okay with that lollipop (again) at the bank or the cookie at Publix or buying the toy when you’re out, say yes and mean it with your whole heart. If you’re not okay with it, say no. It makes it easier on everyone.
  3. Adjust expectations and give support as needed. Sometimes a task is too difficult or overwhelming, and that goes for us and for our kids. When I say to my 12 year old that he needs to clean his room and sort through his closet, putting it into four piles – one for the yard sale, one for things he wants to leave at his dad’s house, one pile for things that go into storage, and a box for the garbage – I get a blank stare. So, I adjust my expectations and break things down into smaller tasks for him and with him, guiding his process more until he can do it. When I can recognize that someone may have a skill deficit or need more support, rather than outright trying to make my life more difficult, I’m less likely to lose it and more likely to offer help. And we all end up feeling much better in the long run. Bonus, the task gets done.
  4. Allow space for the feelings about what’s happening. Saying no, setting a limit, or helping your child to release the toys, clothes, or other items that no longer are needed can be difficult. My 12 year old has been given the information and the containers to sort his things, but it’s just too much for him right now. I’ll be going back in later to help him sort through one bin at a time and I’m ready for him to maybe be sad or need to tell stories about some of the items that he’s outgrown. Same is true when you say no. You can still stick to your limit and hear their feelings. It helps everyone move on more easily.
  5. Taking good care of yourself is critical. Whether that’s a well-earned nap so you’re not exhausted or kicking back with a glass of wine and Netflix at the end of the day, find what recharges you. When your own nurture cup is full, you’re less likely to lose it with your kids!

What about you? What have you figured out that helps you to not lose it?

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