Parents Need Support Too
Parents’ Lives Matter
So, I believe in the importance of giving parents as much support as possible, while they are raising their children – you know, while raising those young ones who will be taking care of all of us; or leading us; or will be our policy makers a decade or two in the future… but who right now may be challenging us at our core.
I think the way we support parents directly impacts the way they are then able to support their children; which directly impacts the future and quality of our world. Providing parents with emotional and practical support is a powerful way to make the world a better place – and to make it a little kinder, one family at a time.
Parenting is hard work
Parenting is a challenging, difficult, requiring hard work, demanding and often thankless job. It can be exhausting; at times overwhelming; so confusing, to be responsible for all the decisions and care that need to be made. Each stage presents a multitude of developmental challenges for the child; and for the parents of the child. Parenting can be isolating and can lead to doubts and self-judgments, even among busy urban professionals who are successful in many other areas of life.
It is humbling to be the parent of a child who “falls out“ in the crosswalk as you hold his hand to cross the street; or who hits another child at school; or who maintains poor study habits and doesn’t get her work done; or the tween who is so critical of everything you say or do; or the teenager who feels everything to the nth degree and seems overly dramatic in expressing their feelings. Humbling, and painful to have daily battles over homework, screen time, chores, emotions run amuck.
We cringe as parents when our kids are hurtful, or unappreciative to us, especially after we do so much for them. We feel frustration and sometimes the awful resentment when they don’t listen to us, or they embarrass us and make us look bad in front of our peers.
Stress in the world, in our home and within ourselves can be too much
Of course urban parents have a lot of other stressors going on in their lives at the same time – huge economic pressures if living in places like the Bay Area; work demands that often don’t fit perfectly into a 9-to-5 schedule; illness; marital struggles; exhaustion; your car not starting; or a leak in the roof; relatives who are forever dependent upon your assistance in some way; trying to protect family members from dangers or bullies at work, school or home, or any other pressure that doesn’t go away.
Not to mention the added stress of having had painful struggles with your own parents when you were a kid; or suffering some profound loss or trauma – Then or Now; or generally never feeling quite good enough. We can feel alone in the parenting world, even if we have a partner; or such shame when we see how others only post all of their wonderful family experiences on Facebook; or guilt when we realize we aren’t doing enough, or our work/life balance is out of whack.
We can feel all too often like a Hot Mess of a parent.
…I just read that becoming a mother is considered a high risk factor for developing depression… or as my colleague said, “a child never needs to have a mommy more than when she becomes a mother”!
All of these conditions (and more) can come together and create a perfect storm of stress for the parents and family, often causing angry outbursts or crying spells, ongoing arguments or conflict, or troubled health – in the parent and/ or the child. No one wants to suffer the family disharmony that can easily be ignited. Yet these family struggles are part of everyday parenting and family life.
How to make it better
But getting parenting support can make an enormous difference in a family’s life. With support parents can feel like they are not alone. They can internalize the wisdom and care that comes from external support and develop a sense and source of calm from within that helps them learn to maintain their balance, even when the kids act out or are disruptive, or have special challenges. Parenting support can strengthen the connection between partners; and between parents and their children.
Receiving parenting support is like securing your own oxygen mask before you secure your kids’ – it’s a way of getting your own security in place so you can truly be attentive and responsive to your kids’ need for security. It’s a way of healing the hole in your own bucket, so you can not drip your own resources away as you nurture them.
Getting support around parenting can create a stronger foundation, so when the blowups or stressors or daily challenges inevitably happen, both parents and kids can have more stability to stand on.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. We know it also takes a village to support a parent. It’s so much easier to go through hard things when you feel like someone has your back and you are not alone.
So what is supportive to a parent? Here are four things that are helpful to the hard work of parenting:
This is actually the number one tool necessary to develop a good and secure attachment with your kids, which ultimately helps them to succeed in life and become positively contributing human beings. When you as a parent are deeply listened to yourself – allowed to feel what you feel, given a chance to express what’s on your mind or in your heart, and caringly understood, you’re in a much better position to offer that to your kids. Parents can create listening partnerships with partners, or friends to share the experiences of hardship and joy of parenting, and develop a supportive network. Take turns to just listen to each other without having to fix or change anything. Notice how when you feel heard, things seem a little easier and more hopeful.
2) A Chance to Breathe
Yes, deep breaths, mindful attention, time to be quiet with your own thoughts, daily mindfulness or meditation can be enormously supportive, helpful and calming to one’s inner parenting distress, so that it doesn’t seep out (in destructive ways) to your everyday life. Fortunately, daily parenting offers many moments to center oneself, take a few slow deep breaths, notice the sounds, feelings or body sensations that are going on inside and around you. Each moment welcomed as it is, creates a more secure foundation for future moments, however, they present themselves, and builds a deeper sense of ease, with which to respond from.
You are not alone in this struggle. Do yourself and your family a favor, by engaging with others; looking for parent support groups; mindful mama groups; parenting classes. We all do better when we don’t feel alone and when we can share our burdens and responsibilities. Maybe your biological family is not one you can count on for support; but you can create “family“ with other parents who are struggling just like you.
4) Parenting Tools, Skills and Education –
You can work with a therapist like me. I especially like working with urban professionals, people of color, parents who care about diversity – and sharing tools that are all about healing past and current family relationships. I believe that giving attention to the sacred time of parenting – with all of its joys and frustrations – is the most important thing we can do – and the most fruitful – in creating a better world.
You don’t have to be overwhelmed in this struggle in your family as you do this most courageous and personally challenging job. You can benefit from learning some practical skills and concepts that maybe you never have had exposure to before, like mindful parenting, non-violent communication, purposeful pauses, self-compassion, everyday mindfulness, etc.
An excellent resource I would highly recommend that I know will be extremely useful in learning some new ideas and practical skills about how to be the best parent you can be is an online FREE series coming up next week (March 20-22) called “Raising Children with Challenges”, hosted by my respected colleague, Susan Stiffelman. She writes a parenting column for the Huffington Post and has offered other summits for parents that are hugely valuable and down to earth and REAL about parenting without power struggles, or parenting in the digital age. (If you can’t catch the free live presentations, they’ll be available for purchase so you can keep all the talks in your own parenting toolbox library).
So what comes up for you as you reflect on your own parenting struggles and joys? Are you getting enough support? Share your feedback here.
If you or someone you care about is having a hard time managing the parenting struggle and would like some solid heartfelt support, please contact me for a parenting therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
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