Something unique to parenting is the subtle but stout, nagging feeling that you’re doing it all wrong. Despite what we see in those around us or on the screen of our favorite TV show, there really are no perfect parents. Even if they did exist, there are also no perfect children that could help create the ideal family. You do not need to keep beating yourself up, comparing yourself to other parents, or feeling hopeless. There are things that can be changed to help you achieve the relationship you want with your family.
Every parent faces difficulty within their relationship with their children. Because this is true, there are common denominators that lead parents to struggle. Even though each family is unique, below are a few problems that most, if not all, parents experience in raising their children. Whether you are here to find some helpful and educational resources or get counseling help, don’t go at it alone. There are people and resources available to journey with you in this process.
What do you see for yourself in the future? If you want to become “accomplished” quickly, getting married and having children may not be an ideal path. If you want to become an improved, stronger, and well-rounded individual, have a family. When you do not have children or a spouse, it’s generally easy to be whoever you want and present whatever version of yourself you want to others. Without a family around us, it’s easy to fool yourself and keep your issues secret when you’re on your own. The spotlight is never brighter on us than when our worst self comes out in marriage and parenting. Even though this sounds scary, it is the reason why both marriage and parenting can be such a blessing and a trial.
Parenting is not only taxing, it also takes up all your patience. As if that was not challenging enough, parenthood has a way of surfacing your own wounds from childhood and putting our character flaws on display for those around us. When left undealt with, it’s common for these issues to rub off onto our kids or even cause us to fall into a cycle of anger and self-shaming. Either way, improving as parents means we’ll eventually have to tackle some of these long-standing and hidden issues in our own life.
Imagine teaching your child how to swim with a lot of safeguards. You fully equip them with a life jacket, floaties, and possibly even a snorkel. Over time, the two of you will work towards removing one piece at a time. It is not wrong or unusual if giving your child space to try their own thing feels frightening. The potential for something to go wrong is very real and the risk increases, as in the case of the swim analogy, as each piece of equipment is removed. It’s normal to want to prepare your child for anything and everything that might go wrong. As your child grows up and approaches new and unfamiliar territories, it is common for both you, the parent, and your child to have anxiety around the “what if’s.” Even though you, as the parent, know that they will need to make mistakes to learn, a part of you wants to protect them from anything bad that could happen to them.
It is actually possible for you to provide guidance and direction while also giving your children space to learn independently. It requires the ability to take a step back, follow their pace throughout the process, leverage unique moments to prepare them, and lead them into their next stage in life. This idea sounds simple when reading it, right? However, it can be incredibly challenging to carry out when we are unsure of what may happen next and our fears kick in. It seems like recently, our children are being pushed into adulthood faster than they may feel ready for, let alone what we, as their parents, feel they are prepared for. Some children cling to their parents for too long out of fear of making the wrong choice, possibly failing, or for other reasons. Knowing when to push our children, how to help them with their problems, or when to provide a safe place to land when things do not go according to plan is a challenge parents consistently face as their loved one grows up.
“How do I know when my child is ready for something like this?”
“How do I know I can trust them to make a decision when this could change the rest of their life?”
“How can I live with myself if, because I did not help them, they made the wrong choice?”
These are questions that parents often ask their friends, their spouses, and especially themselves. Often, parents allow their anxiety or fear to makes decisions for them instead of allowing their child to make the decision and potentially live with the consequences.Often, when a parent or their child struggles with these uncertainties, it is because they do not have the appropriate tools or skills to cope with the emotions that arise. As their parent, your children will depend on you to educate and help them practice identifying their feelings and effectively communicating their emotions or what their needs may be. Because of this, it is important that you are continuing to grow and develop your own ability to handle the different stressors life can throw your way. This does not only benefit you, it also prepares you to be a role model of self-management and emotional intelligence for your child.
Do you recall that magical moment when you became a parent? Your world stopped, and the thought crossed your mind that no other experience could top bringing a new life into the world. Well, for many, the euphoria begins to fade with the countless nights of interrupted sleep, lack of personal time, inconsistent time with partner, and an increasing drag on finances. Granted, as your child gets older, you can typically regain some of these things. However, also as your child grows, the challenges become more complex when developing identity and life apart from parents. Helping your child create or manage different activities, friendships, school assignments, or schedules can add a great deal of stress to parents who already have a busy schedule. The problems or challenges your child faces are not just theirs, they become yours too. It may seem impossible to get ahead or balance family challenges and to also set aside time to practice self-care.
Recently, there’s been a phenomenon around being a “good enough parent” instead of aiming to be “perfect parents.” Unfortunately, even being a “good enough” parent is challenging in and of itself, especially when you may not be the best version of yourself nor have an adequate amount of internal resources. When you feel like your energy is running on empty and that annoying check engine light sign keeps popping up in your brain, it can feel like too much to handle. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best decisions you can make as a parent is learning how to take care of yourself with the time or resources you may have left. You may feel that you don’t even have 5 minutes to spare. A therapist can work together with you to identify ways to become more efficient with your time, create healthy boundaries, potentially get ahead in a few areas, and begin reaping in the sweet rewards of the self-care investments you make throughout your day.
Are you familiar with that twinge in the pit of your stomach as you’re headed up on a rollercoaster and then suddenly rushing back down the other side? Parents frequently experience this feeling when they realize that their children’s friends, the shows they watch, and the people they follow on social media have become more influential in their children’s lives than those who have been a part of their life every step of the way.
In a perfect world, our children grow up with a confident sense of self; they can identify and establish healthy boundaries and stand up for themselves when needed to hold onto the values they’ve learned. Parents want their children to learn about themselves through the experiences they have in their life. However, most parents also see this happening faster than they would like it to, seemingly at a rate that seems uncontrollable. The “what if’s” can often be every parent’s nightmare. The endless possibilities often play tricks on parent’s minds as they run through all the worst-case scenarios, which leads many parents to over-supervise or prematurely intervene in their children’s lives. In an effort to protect their children, it usually comes at the cost of contradicting the parent’s initial desire for their child to become an independent and autonomous adult.
This transition from being your child’s “manager” to more of a consultant position can often be much more complicated when parents see that the child’s influences, such as their friends, display unhealthy or destructive behaviors. Often, even adults will forsake their values or put aside their own beliefs to feel like they belong or are desired by others. This desire to belong, or at times, need to escape, can be that much more powerful or appealing to a child who may not have those initial protective factors which adults have had the time to refine over time. When a situation like this happens, where your child begins to make decisions that go against the way you raised them, it’s natural to have a sense of urgency to intervene in your child’s life. This is often done in the hopes of redirecting a child’s thinking or how they approach situations before a parent’s influence with them has passed. Most parents fear the day where they become or are viewed as an enemy by their child, are seen as someone who’s getting in the way of “having fun,” or when their child wants “to be like everyone else.”
If you have a partnership with your child that includes trust and respect, this is a great place to be; it is crucial to continue utilizing this partnership as best as possible and protect it from being diminished. Or, if you do not have this type of relationship with your child, then counseling may be a great space to work collaboratively with your therapist. You can work together to identify ways to either re-create or continue building upon a relationship to create a space where there can be mutual respect, a feeling of concern and empathy, and a sense of safety. Safety, where regardless of what it is that’s being discussed, each party will continue to love and be present in the others’ lives even though there may be consequences.
Despite the situation you find yourself in, whether it’s an environment that already has a healthy partnership or a partnership that has been interrupted, there is hope to regain what was once had or continue to build with the excitement of what can be. Reach out, speak with someone, let someone join you in this journey of uncertainty because the worst place to be is one where you are alone and uncertain of what to do next.
If you could use some support on your journey with your child, give Lifeologie a call! We’re here to support you. All of our staff are here to help, book an appointment today!