A young woman hides in a box. Learning to thrive outside your comfort zone will help you to be a better parent.

If there is one thing I have learned over the last 14 years about being a parent, it’s that you are constantly being thrown out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s those first months with a new baby, the terrible two’s, or a kid on the threshold of becoming a teen, there are ages and stages that can throw parents for a loop. This article will give you some tips on how to thrive outside your comfort zone.

The comfort zone

Ah, the comfort zone. For many of us, when given the choice, this is where we like to hang out. Things are pleasant here. The temperature is steady, we know what to expect, and there’s no anxiety to be seen for miles and miles.

Comfort zone examples:

Staying in familiar surroundings: This can include staying in your own home or neighborhood, or frequenting the same places you always do.

Doing the same things: This can include engaging in the same hobbies or activities, or sticking to a routine.

Avoiding risks: This can include avoiding situations where you might fail or feel embarrassed, or avoiding confrontations or difficult conversations.

Surrounding yourself with familiar people: This can include spending time with family members or close friends, or avoiding social situations with strangers or new acquaintances.

Relying on established patterns: This can include relying on habits and routines that have worked in the past, or following set procedures or rules in certain situations.

Parenting meets the comfort zone

From the day you take your child home for the first time, you find yourself living in a place that constantly requires you to step out of your comfort zone. New skills must be acquired, risks seem more plentiful, and our very views of the world can be shaken.

Child screaming at a vaccination appointment.

It’s not a matter of if, but when: Situations that could throw you out of your comfort zone as a parent

  1. Discussing difficult topics: Whether it’s death, divorce, illness, or other sensitive topics, parents may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their children. Finding the right words to use can be difficult, and parents may worry about how their child will react to the news.
  2. Managing social media and technology: As children become more technology-savvy, parents may feel uncomfortable navigating the challenges of social media, online privacy, and screen time. Establishing boundaries and monitoring your child’s online activity can be difficult without feeling like you are invading their privacy.
  3. Attending school functions: Whether it’s a parent-teacher conference, a school play, or a sporting event, parents may feel awkward or uncomfortable attending school functions. They may feel like they don’t know the other parents well enough, or they may feel self-conscious about their behavior in front of others.
  4. Talking about sex: Many parents feel uncomfortable talking to their children about sex, especially if you didn’t receive comprehensive sex education yourself.
  5. Discipline in public: When a child misbehaves in public, many parents may feel embarrassed or unsure of how to address the behavior in front of others.
  6. Meeting other parents and handling different parenting styles For some parents, meeting other parents at school events or playdates can be a source of anxiety or discomfort. They may feel unsure of how to start conversations or build connections with other caregivers. When parents have different approaches to discipline or child-rearing, navigating these differences without conflict or tension can be difficult.
  7. Taking care of sick children at home Most parents do not have a medical background and caring for sick children can be terrifying to parents with very little experience.

The risks and benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone

Risks:

  1. Anxiety and stress: Stepping out of your comfort zone as a parent can bring up feelings of anxiety and stress, especially if you are doing something new or unfamiliar.
  2. Failure: Trying something new as a parent can also mean the risk of failure. If you try a new parenting strategy and it doesn’t work, there is a good chance you are going to feel frustrated.
  3. Time and energy: Trying new things can take time and energy, which may be in short supply for busy parents. When you encounter failure, you may feel like you wasted a lot of precious time and energy.

Benefits:

  1. Personal growth: Getting out of your comfort zone can help you grow personally and develop new skills and abilities as a parent.
  2. Improved relationships: Stepping out of your comfort zone can also lead to improved relationships with your children. Trying new activities or having new experiences together can create bonds and strengthen your connection.
  3. Positive role model: Modeling taking risks and being open to new experiences can also positively influence your children. It can teach them the importance of being open-minded and adaptable.
  4. Expanded perspectives: Trying new things can broaden your perspective as a parent and expose you to different ideas and ways of thinking. This can help you become more flexible in your parenting style and approach.
  5. Providing opportunities for learning and skill-building:

You know there are awesome benefits to leaving the comfort zone. What’s getting in your way? Why can it be so challenging to navigate new situations?

A tree blocking the road

Barriers to stepping out of your comfort zone:

  1. Fear of the unknown: Trying something new can be scary. Fear of the unknown can prevent us from taking risks and trying new things.
  2. Lack of confidence: Experiencing a lack of confidence in your ability to handle new situations may make it more difficult for you to take risks
  3. Social pressure: A parent may feel pressure from others to conform to a certain parenting style or do what other parents are doing.
  4. Fear of criticism: Fear of failure can prevent a parent from taking risks and trying new things. They may worry that if they fail, others will judge or criticize them.
  5. Perfectionism: You might feel like you need to do everything perfectly. This can limit the new things you are willing to try in fear that whatever you do won’t be good enough.

Now that we know what is getting in our way, how can we feel more confident exploring outside of our comfort zones?

How to break free from your comfort zone

  1. Make a list of things that make you uncomfortable. Here’s an example of things that are outside my comfort zone:
  • Taking on big PTA projects
  • Dealing with aggressive salespeople
  • Driving long distances
  • Political or religious debates

Everyone’s list is going to look a little different. Take some time to figure out what’s on yours.

2. Start Small

Decide which item on your list you want to tackle first. If you are uncomfortable talking to your child’s teacher, you could start by sending an e-mail. If you are not sure how to talk to your child about sex, order a book about how to explain it. When you are trying to learn how to swim outside of your comfort zone, wading in the shallow waters is a lot easier than jumping in the deep end.

3. Find support

Having a “phone a friend” to help you out can make a big difference in your ability to succeed. At the hospital, I would often ask a charge nurse to assist when I was doing a procedure I wasn’t comfortable with. Having that extra support would boost my confidence and make it easier to get outside of my comfort zone.

Support can come from a lot of different sources. If your child is sick, support could come from taking your child to the doctors. If you are not sure what to do in a tricky social situation, advice from an experienced parent could help. If you are dealing with burnout, it could be a good time to seek advice from a therapist.

4. Practice

Once you’ve tried getting out of your comfort zone, do it again! You are going to have successes and failures, but the more you do something, the easier it will become.

5.Repeat

Don’t stop and rest on your laurels once you’ve made it outside your comfort zone, start the process over again. Some items on your list are going to be more difficult than others. Don’t give up!

A confident woman pulls back the curtain.

Its time to thrive outside your comfort zone

If you take the time to learn how to get out of your comfort zone you will find that not only are you are surviving, you are thriving!

  • You’ll have more confidence in taking on new tasks
  • You’ll spend more time enjoying new experiences instead of stressing about them
  • You’ll be more productive
  • You’ll be better able to meet your child’s needs

Next time you are stressing about an aspect of parenting that’s thrown you for a loop, take a minute to consider how you’d benefit from tackling it head on!

Looking for more information on how to comfort your kids? Check out my articles on how to make listening your superpower, how to increase your empathy, and showing your children unconditional love.

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