A simple visualization to help you stay calm and confident in stressful parenting situations

Stress makes you feel like you don't have options. Use this visualization to explore alternatives to yelling in stressful parenting situations.

Glancing at the recipe, you gather ingredients, preheat the oven, and wrestle the correct pan out of the overcrowded cabinet.

You’re getting a late start. Again.

Without warning, a thundering roar fills the kitchen. Your kids barrel in, all talking at once, demanding that you hear “their side” of the story first.

Talk about feeling stressed.

Your brain shifts into survival mode. And all of this noise is interpreted as a threat.

There is no thinking. Just responding in this moment.

“Responding” usually means telling everyone to “Be quiet!” and “Get out of the kitchen!” At the only volume they can hear…

Yelling at the top of your lungs.

Parenting through stressful situations

Stress makes you feel limited. Like the only choices you have are yelling, screaming, or running away.

But what if you could shift your brain out of this stress and panic mode?

To see that you have options.

Lots of options.

Try this visualization…

A simple visualization to help you feel calm and confident in stressful parenting situations

Imagine a clean white piece of paper. Next to it, the drawing instruments of your choice: a new box of crayons, an amazing array of colorful pencils, thin-line sharpies.

Next, take a deep breath. Realize that you have all the time in the world. No obligations. Nowhere to be. No noses to wipe or arguments to monitor.

This paper is yours to fill.

The possibilities are endless.

Elaborate designs. Realistic landscapes. Or just filling the page with random colors and patterns.

How do you feel?

Peaceful? Calm? Can you imagine how you would fill the page?


Now, let’s imagine the same scenario. Clean, white sheet of paper. A colorful assortment of drawing materials.

But this time, you grab the paper and crumple it into a tiny, raggedy ball.

A simple visualization to help you feel calm and confident in stressful parenting situations

It’s the same paper.

But your options are limited.

Sure, you could try to color in between the dents and creases of the paper ball. But in no time, you’ll probably feel frustrated and annoyed by the limitations.

Not very peaceful.

Calm Parenting Using this Visualization

Let’s go back to the kitchen scene…

Remember, you’re trying to get dinner ready and the kids are arguing, begging for your attention?


When you’re standing in the midst of chaos, your brain is like that crumpled paper. Sure, there are a few small spots of clarity, but for the most part, you feel stressed.


Yelling and panicking seem like your only options.

But what if, this time, you decide to take a deep breath.

Then, visualize yourself uncrumpling the paper ball. Slowly and intentionally. Running your hand over the page to smooth out the some of the wrinkles.

Suddenly you have space.


You may even feel a sense of calm wash over you.

Here’s how it might play out:

Taking a deep breath, you turn off the oven burner and face your kids.

“I can tell this is really important to you guys. Let’s sit down at the table, I’m feeling cornered in here.”

Your kids follow you to the table. (What? Mom’s not yelling? No threats? This is great!)

Mentally exploring the full piece of paper, you realize there are options:

  • Maybe you’ll facilitate some problem-solving.
  • Maybe you’ll just listen and be empathetic to each person’s point of view.
  • Maybe you’ll decide to put the discussion on hold until everyone calms down.
  • Maybe you’ll connect by playing a quick game of rock, paper, scissors or tic-tac-toe before you head back to the kitchen to finish dinner.

Next time you feel stressed, imagine a crumpled piece of paper. (Or crumple a real piece of paper for reference!)

Then, take some deep breaths as you imagine yourself smoothing out the wrinkles.

The situation you’re in may seem like an emergency, but that’s just the crumpled ball talking. Take your time. You have space.

You have options.

Need more ideas for how to respond once your paper is smooth? Check out these 9 alternatives!

Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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