Coloring into Regulation

Originally published on The Consciously Parenting Blog June 10, 2009

We’re really adjusting right now. School has let out and my older son is now home for the summer. We’ve had some pretty big ups and downs over the past week as we all work toward our new normal. Summer provides many opportunities to learn those things we all still need to learn: regulating ourselves (calming ourselves down) after stresses being perhaps our biggest lesson right now. Some of us are more reactive than others. I’ll leave it at that.

Today I woke up at what I’m calling a yellow light. Green light would be all completely calm and ready to face the day. Red would mean that I need to just stop everything because I’m completely overwhelmed.

I was aware of it as soon as I pried my eyes open when my son woke me up. Self-awareness is a wonderful start, but by itself is not regulating. I spent some time focusing on my breathing, working to settle my body’s stress so that I could enjoy the day with my boys. I was open and honest when I shared with my boys that I was on a yellow light and that we all needed to go easy today.

Best laid plans aside, I soon found myself on a blaring RED light and gave myself a mommy time-out to calm down. Everyone was dysregulated (way not calm) and the shift needed to start with me. If I couldn’t calm myself down- yes, as the adult- how could I expect them- the children- to do it?

A friend had photocopied several pages of mandalas for me- those circles with the intricate designs- and given me colored pencils. Truly a gift. I found myself impulsively picking them up to color. My son came in and asked what I was doing. “Regulating,” was all I replied.

Soon, he picked out his own mandala and began coloring, too. My youngest son walked into the room, looked to see what we were doing, then walked back out and found something quiet to do by himself.

In the space of just a few minutes, the house was quiet. But not quiet in the way I remember when I was growing up when something awful had just happened- that painful silence along with fear of making noise.

This was a peaceful quiet.

We had all began to move back into yellow and maybe, just maybe, toward that green light.

I was modeling exactly what I wanted them to do when they were overwhelmed and I hadn’t intended for it to happen. This wasn’t part of some great plan I had. It just happened. The rest of the afternoon was much more calm. We all had more patience with each other. And it was all because I had followed that impulse to spend some time coloring.

Perhaps we need to remember that solutions aren’t going to be complicated or come in boxes with ribbons and bows, but rather in the simple things that are right in front of us. The answers are inside of you. It comes in the form of what may later seem like divine inspiration. And perhaps it is. Open your heart and you’ll see the light.

My friend Janet Conner has shared a page from her book The Soul Discovery Coloring Book

Artist: Christine Pensa


Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca Thompson Hitt has 145 posts and counting. See all posts by Rebecca Thompson Hitt

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