'The Cascade of Chaos' – Definition: The phenomenon of when the time and energy required to solve one minor problem triggers an ever-growing quantity and scale of bigger problems.
The problem with PROBLEMS
When you’re the resident family wrangler, there’s one thing you want to avoid – ‘The Cascade of Chaos’. What fresh hell is this you ask? Well, you already know, there just wasn’t a name for it. It starts as a feeling of fear in the pit of your stomach when someone in the family (usually a child) begins to develop a PROBLEM ...
A little problem with one of our kids can turn into a really big problem for us ‘if left untreated’. To successfully wrangle the family, things need to work. Stuff needs to get done on time, schedules need to be kept to, people need to be in the right places at the right times with everything they need for whatever they’re doing when they’re there. It’s a finely tuned machine with very little room for error. A PROBLEM throws a spanner in the works.
Suddenly, you’re the family wrangler, and the family mechanic. If you don’t solve that problem fast ... there’s going to be a cascade of chaos.
She’s gonna blow!
We get that ‘uh-oh’ feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we detect a PROBLEM. Why? Because we know we pretty much need to solve problems before they even start. And, that’s tough when solving problems takes time, and time is our most limited resource.
If we don’t nip that problem in the bud, the knock-on effect of the time it takes to solve it, creates bigger issues than the problem itself. That’s where things start to unravel. Suddenly, there are a whole lot of flashing lights on the dashboard of our finely tuned machine and there’s smoke fuming out of the thingamajig!
The Cascade of Chaos
When there’s something affecting your child, more time and energy needs to be directed towards helping them through their difficulties, this in turn, takes time and energy away from your other family members, tasks, responsibilities, and (let’s not forget) yourself.
Then, there’s an ever growing lag and backlog of things that you still need to attend to. The longer the problem continues, the bigger that backlog becomes, possibly creating other problems ... and thus, we trigger ‘The Cascade of Chaos’.
The net effect of this is that the family wrangler ends up under-resourced and overwhelmed for time, energy and emotional capacity. It can be very hard to make sure everyone else is okay when we’re so far away from being okay ourselves.
9 ways to avoid ‘The Cascade of Chaos’ ...
To avoid ‘The Cascade of Chaos’ prevention is the cure. We don’t just need eyes in the back of our heads to see who’s scaling the pantry shelves for the chippies, we also need eyes fixed on the horizon to see what’s coming next that could possibly become a growing problem.
Look out for the milestones, events and challenges that are approaching and make a strategy for how to begin navigating them before they arrive, e.g. your child is starting school. Figure out what your child’s needs may be around the issue or milestone and what extra support they’ll need from you.
Minimise planned activities around milestones, events and challenges.
Give your support network a heads-up so they're ready to call on if you need back-up and suggest how they could help. E.g. kids’ pick-ups, playdates, transport, meals, helping with jobs and chores, etc.
Let your workplace know what you’ve got coming up and adjust projects or pencil in time off.
Cook some bigger dinners than usual and save meals in the freezer so you can cut out cooking if you need to.
Practice self-care. Keep a list in your phone of go-to resilience strategies for when you’re feeling stretched. E.g. 10 minutes of meditation, breathwork or exercise.
Practice coping strategies with your kids, e.g. making a ‘smile stone’, triangle breathing, the worry dump, the 4, 3, 2, 1 game, big hugs and ‘mate dates’.
Get enough sleep. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to go to bed an hour earlier than usual so you can meet extra demands with your battery fully charged.
Check in with your partner to get on the same page for how you’re going to handle the problem and how you can support one another through that demanding phase of parenting.
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Hannah Davison is the author and co-founder of My Big Moments. Join ‘the village’ on Instagram at @mybigmoments for free practical help and support for parents and caregivers.