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Cope Ahead

The handwriting is on the wall.


It is 7:42 and Princess (not her real name) is slumping against the wall with a pout on her pretty little face, her shoulders lifting and dropping, lifting and dropping. Mom, dressed for success and ready for work takes a deep breath and her stomach drops… not again, not this… not nooooooow…


In a decidedly unprofessional whine of her own, Mom pushes out the words forcefully through gritted teeth, “We are not spending another morning like this! Get your bag and get down to the car before we are all late!!” Mom’s mind is frantic; I can’t exactly drag her kicking and screaming- I mean- can I??


Princess drops to the floor in a heap and bursts into tears. “I’m not going to that stupid school, and you can’t make me and I’m not going, not going, not going!!!” Every “going” has a decibel increase of ten.


Oh please… not this again!


There are myriad situations that parents face that tend to repeat themselves in one version or another, each version closely reminiscent of each other. For Vivi, the mom in this anecdote, Princess’s protests during the morning crunch time have become a familiar fixture.


And many of us have our own occurrences that we dread anticipating in our parenting schedules. For some it’s late afternoon, for others, homework time or bedtime. But those old and familiar challenging episodes keep on resurfacing in different reincarnations, and isn’t just amazing how we are unready each time anew? But what’s a body to do?


Well, great question, and now that you’ve asked, here’s a technique to try on for size. When the moment crops up and you are unprepared, we as a matter of course drive on autopilot straight into the scene of the disaster. But what if…


What if we prepared for it? What if we can imagine a better outcome? What if we didn’t get ourselves stuck in the same old, same old? And imagine is the precise go-to for Vivi—and can be for you too. Imagine a rendition of your familiar scene. Take the time and headspace to really imagine it.


Vivi does just that. She gets comfortable one afternoon when she is by herself, and imagines Princess in her fresh school uniform, making her way down the stairs, a pout on her pretty freckled face. Vivi spends a few minutes really getting into that moment, “seeing” the morning clock with its seconds-hand moving obliviously; hearing the sounds, feeling the feelings, and watching Princess dissolve. All of this takes place—in her imagination. But before Vivi’s own usual reaction, she puts a stop to the image and decides how she’d ideally like to respond. And in her imagination, Vivi plays the airbrushed version of herself responding with calm, validation, understanding…


And play it again!


Vivi replays the airbrushed version of herself responding with calm, validation, understanding…


And play it again!!


Over and over, Vivi imagines coping in the best possible way to the situation. She is “Coping Ahead”, Imagining herself, step by step, handling her complicated and frustrating morning moments with control, love, and grace. Repeatedly.


Vivi might not get magical results on her first test drive of her imagined skillful responses, but as she practices coping ahead and being her ideal self, responding gracefully in her imagination over the next number of days, she is rewiring her own brain, and rewriting the scrips for a more effective and successful future outcome.


Go ahead and try it yourself, and when you do, write in, and let us know how it goes!

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