Parenting can be overstimulating, especially for introverts. Being intentional about what gets your energy is key.
If you’re an introvert and/or a highly sensitive person, you’re prone to feelings of overwhelm and may succumb to overstimulation quite easily. Add children to your life, and it becomes that much harder and can feel completely chaotic at times.
For me, even a routine day can turn into a turbulent roller coaster if I’m not intentional about what (and who) gets my energy — which is harder than it sounds when my three-year-old constantly needs something, immediately. (It’s always a pressing, urgent, life-altering emergency, like he needs more snacks — right now.)
One of the best ways I’ve found to curb the chaos (or at least turn it into semi-controllable chaos) is to be intentional. Be intentional with your energy, your time, and your daily schedule. Otherwise, those sweet little babies will gobble up every last ounce of sanity you still have.
Plus, being intentional with your days will help you and your kids feel more grounded and less like you’re flying by the seat of your pants (which, let’s be honest, you might still do sometimes because — parenthood).
Here are seven ways I’ve found to be most effective in harnessing intentionality in my day-to-day life.
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How Introverted Parents Can Curb the Chaos
1. Get up before the kids(ish) so you have some time to yourself.
I know, I know. Don’t shoot the messenger here. I said “ish,” okay? I am not a morning person by any means, and I have never gotten up hours before my children to get a jump on the day. Nope. Never going to happen for me (though if that’s you, I’m in awe).
I do, however, attempt to wake up at least 15-20 minutes before my kids and begin my wake-up process (I’m a bit of a slow riser).
I have, through a process of trial and error, been able to find a couple things that help me feel like I’m ready to take on the day each morning. Creating and having “me time” is very important (especially for sensitive introverts!) Simple things that I can do in the span of 10-25 minutes, like stretch or meditate or, you know, go to the bathroom — by myself. Just enough so that it’s manageable on a consistent basis and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed from the get-go.
2. Create daily routines, general guidelines to keep you and your kids going.
I’m not talking about strict, minute-by-minute schedules here, because who has the energy to deal with that? That feels way too stressful to me, and kids have a way of throwing schedules out the window. So, let’s settle into a rhythm or routine that works, so we all know where we’re heading, and we have a general guideline to keep us going.
For example, we get dressed and brush our teeth before going downstairs in the morning. Then, we have breakfast and do hair before the kids go to school. There’s no strict timetable (though obviously I, as the adult, keep an eye on the clock so we’re not late), but there’s a consistent flow so everyone already knows what’s expected.
Not only does having simple routines help us — and the kids — know what’s next, but it also takes the brain power out of having to make a bunch of decisions and referee arguments throughout the morning. (The same goes with afternoon, after school, or evening routines.)
3. Reduce clutter.
You don’t have to go full minimalist here, unless that’s your thing, but simplifying and streamlining things will reduce the chaos in your mind, your home, and your life in general. Whether it’s reducing the clutter of kids toys (I’m looking at you, 58,394-piece LEGO set), or the clutter of your overflowing family calendar, take some time to assess what’s really important and what things can go.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote Frozen’s Elsa here and say, “Let it go, let it go…!” As highly sensitive introverts, we can get overstimulated by seeing too much stuff in our physical space, by having too much on our to-do list, and even the mental load of having too many decisions to make.
So, identify what area of your life feels the most chaotic and start there. Chip away and think about things you can quit doing or delegate, stuff you can sell or donate, and ask for help where you need it (as much as we introverts hate to do so!).
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4. Practice “quiet time” with the kids.
This can be a really tough one, but so rewarding when it finally starts to work. When my daughter dropped her nap, I thought I’d never get a break. In a panic, I did what all good parents do and turned to Google. There were a ton of suggestions, of course, but the most common one suggested implementing “quiet time”… which sounded great, but also like a cruel joke. Ask my then-three-year-old daughter to sit quietly for any length of time? What? Really?!
However, we practiced and practiced and practiced, and made it a part of our daily routine, and in time, she started to do it on her own. Quiet time will look different for every family; for us, it was quiet book time that worked best, but some families have quiet toys the kids play with or they actually incorporate rest time with lovies and cozy blankets (oh, to be a kid again!). So, find what works for you and your kids, and practice until it becomes routine.
5. Take a 5-minute mommy or daddy time-out.
Let’s be real, sometimes you need a break — right now — and there’s no one around to take the kids for you. As sensitive, introverted parents, we know these moments will come. It’s a matter of when, not if. So let’s be intentional about setting ourselves up for when these moments do arise. I like to practice taking short time-outs here and there, even (and especially) when I don’t need them, so when I really do need them, my kids already know the drill.
It’s a great way to teach your kids how to self-regulate, too. Explaining to your kids how it feels to be overwhelmed, and then how to take a break when you feel that way to regulate your nervous system, is a great lesson.
In modeling this for our kids, we’re not only getting a chance to actually take a break ourselves, but we’re teaching them how to do it for themselves when they need it, too. Win-win.
6. Ask yourself these questions to slow things down.
When things start feeling chaotic and everything is moving too fast, I have a set of questions I like to keep handy to ask myself. Whether I actually write out the answers, journal-style, or sit down to think them over, it doesn’t matter. Just find what works for you, in the moment, and use these as prompts to slow things down until it all feels more manageable.
- What’s the most important thing I have to do right now?
- What things can wait?
- What things can someone else do?
- What things don’t actually need to be done at all?
These questions will help bring your priorities into focus, remind you that you don’t have to do it all by yourself, and that there are often a few things that don’t really need to be on your list at all. Remind yourself that it’s safe to slow down — and that it’s okay to do less. And, speaking of which…
7. Have “bare-minimum days” — the less you do, the better!
Even the most well-intentioned days will sometimes go off the rails. You know what I’m talking about. You get up early and have a moment of peace by yourself. You’re feeling pretty great about the day. You even make a big breakfast for the kids…
But the kids wake up cranky and don’t like the food you cooked and refuse to brush their teeth and don’t want to go to school and your toddler is screaming because putting shoes on has suddenly become akin to torture.
You. Are. Going. To. Lose. It!!!
Take a deep breath and decide to have a “bare minimum day,” the cousin of a “Do Nothing” day. This is what I’ve started calling the days like this when I just cannot, and need a Hail Mary to get me to bedtime. Identify ahead of time what things are absolutely necessary to get done in a given day and what things you can comprise on or leave for tomorrow. What rules can you bend for the day? And then, on this day, just do the bare minimum.
Overall, Be Intentional to Curb the Chaos
It’s totally normal, as highly sensitive, introverted parents, to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated by all the things –- loud kids, busy schedules, constant movement, and going, going, going. So, it’s important, for our own well-being, to be intentional about setting boundaries and having a game-plan (especially for those extra-crazy moments).
From this moment on, let’s normalize slowing down, doing less, and taking the time to recharge. As we do this for ourselves, we’re teaching our kids, in the process, how to do it for themselves — and that’s how powerful being intentional can be.
My fellow highly sensitive and/or introverted parents, what tips would you add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
You might like:
- 27 ‘Strange’ Things You Do Because You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
- Are You an Introvert, a Highly Sensitive Person, or Both?
- How Introverts Can Master the Art of ‘Doing Nothing’
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