I've been watching Parental Guidance on Channel Nine. I wasn't going to, but I can't help myself. It's fascinating as parents to have a peek in to how other parents do it. Let's face it, parenting is a bit of a competitive sport.
Unfortunately, just like real sport you don't get a medal for competing. There are winners and losers, and least publicly.
One thing I noticed watching Parental Guidance is that most of the children are really well behaved. On a whole they seem neurotypical with developmentally appropriate development, some of them are very confident or smart, or attractive or all three. In other words, they are picked to present well on TV. And they're on TV, so that makes sense. And the parents are articulate and curious - picked for TV.
So, by all means, enjoy this show and other parenting shows, but remember it is reality TV, not real life. It is set up, simulated, scripted etc.
In real life, parenting can be really tough, much tougher than on TV. .
Parenting is hard.
Often your child’s actions, difficulties, emotional challenges, success, failures, developmental progress, scholastic progress, friendships, physical appearance etc are on public display. Out there for all to judge.
And your responses and reactions are out there in public as well. There is always a gaggle of people waiting to give you advice, and a mountain of social media posts to compare yourself against, and books and experts to scavenge through.
You can literally turn yourself inside out working out what type of parent you are, what else can you do, what are you doing wrong?
Let me tell you a secret, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a parenting style.
It doesn't matter that you can’t fit yourself into one of the categories that people love to use – helicopter parent, tiger mum, free range, disciplinarian, or any of the other myriad of categories that currently exist.
Ignore the parenting experts
Yes there is advice on what styles of parenting are shown to be more effective, and it updates as research evolves. But this is always general advice, population best practice.. The experts don’t know you and your family. Your unique needs and your unique children.
Stop trying to measure yourself against other parents. Stop reading the parenting books. Start listening to yourself.
Let go of your parenting guilt and shame
If you are giving your love, turning up, showing respect, being there to listen, to be with…you are doing your very best.
THIS DOES NOT GUARANTEE A SMOOTH, TROUBLE FREE RELATIONSHIP.
But know, if your mother-child journey is bumpy, unexpected, heart wrenching or disruptive
Know that you have still done enough.
And it’s not your fault. No-one is to blame.
Ask for help
You may need extra support, in fact I strongly encourage you to reach out for support if the bumps are too high to navigate on your own,
Get support, whether it be through parent coaching, parenting training, employing help, or asking family or friends to help out.
Ask for what you need, and understand and really accept that asking for help does not mean you have failed.
It's OK, in fact it is often necessary to have someone to walk beside you on your parenting journey; and it can make such a difference.
The most satisfying part of my work is hearing parents tell me how relieved they are when they realise it's OK to change expectations, it’s OK to accept and embrace their child’s differences, and that when they look at their child’s behaviour with a different perspective things can start to shift.
Knowing yourself, knowing your child, tuning in and understanding your emotions and your feelings this creates a sound base on which to work on your relationship and continue to support your child as best they can to manage all the tricky feelings, changes, and challenges they are experiencing.
If you practice this mindful response to parenting, and respect what both you and your child need, you will develop your unique style and connection.
I was looking at old home videos today, and I noticed I really miss those days when my children were little and just wanted to be with me.
And, I also remember how isolating many of those days were. How hard it can be responding to unrelenting love and need for attention.
I'm not going to tell you that one day you'll look on those demanding days and miss them, because it doesn't help.
You're smart, you know this, but right now in this moment, when you just ache for some time for yourself without the guilt you feel as your youngest child runs down the driveway telling you to come back because they miss you... now is not the time to tell you you'll miss it.
What I can do is help you not carry that guilt that is trying to follow you down the driveway...
Having a child cry that they want you to come back, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child scream that they hate you, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child kick out at you because they don't want to be in their car seat, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child refuse to go to school, does not make you a bad mother.
It sure has heck feels like it sometimes though....
I'll let you in on a secret, well it's not really a secret, but it does seem to be something that people don't talk about much.
Some children are more difficult to look after than others. They're the ones who don't want to go to sleep, who don't want to eat the food you make, who are quick to anger or cry.
It doesn't make you love them any less, but they are harder work. And it's OK to accept this fact.
You may even find that letting go of the idea that it is your fault your children are difficult and accepting what is, helps lessen the feeling of guilt that is following you around.
If this is something you struggle with, we are here to help.
Simply call us on 0408533515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a parenting consultation and let us help you move from overwhelm to calm.
And to help you get started we have created a special resource that helps you identify one of the first things you can do help reduce that feeling of overwhelm - if you don't have it yet, click here to access your First Step to move from Overwhelm to Calm.
My eldest turns 21 today. He is having a birthday in isolation. That means no -one over to celebrate, not going out with mates. He's stuck with me and his brother!
It was today 21 years ago that I became a mother (yes that's me and infamous baby who didn't sleep all night until he was 5)....
I'm so proud of him today and I've shared that on Facebook, but your children's birthday's are also a time for personal reflections.
I look at this photo and I see how young and beautiful I looked. I was 32.
Nowdays I am not so young or beautiful, but I am younger and probably more beautiful than what I'll ever be again.
When I was much younger, I loved going out and dancing. Connecting, and just being with the music and the friends and strangers around me. Whether it be ‘sock hops’ at school, listening to pub cover bands, or going to bushdances. It was fun!!
Then for a while, the music stopped. With the unrelenting fatigue that accompanied the jump into motherhood.
There was no more dancing and the isolation of motherhood became real.
The only dancing was the swaying that happened trying to soothe the babies, or the bouncing and rolling around on the Swiss ball as they were jiggled off to sleep.
And then the babies grew and even the swaying disappeared….
The music changes when you become a mother, well it did for me. Suddenly you have children who depend on you, who trust you implicitly (until they become teenagers anyway) and look to you for guidance in everything they do. And often, we don’t have all the answers, we can’t fulfill all their needs, we can’t even fulfill our own needs of sleep, and that sense of failure to be perfect can lead to isolation and times of despair.
So, although I had my mother and my family, and friends, I lost the music.
So how do you get the music back? You start by giving yourself permission to hear it.
When you embrace your imperfections, your authenticity, and follow your life rhythm you find others who resonate with you, who will support you, challenge you and join in your dance.
You may find as I did, when you make a commitment to embrace your vulnerability, you create space to make new soul connections with your family, your friends, each other.
It's OK, it's normal to lose the music, to get overwhelmed, to reach out for guidance and support. I've been there, swaying in the corner, waiting for it to change.
I get it.
Remember we are all connected, and although you may feel it at times, you are not alone.
The music, the dance, the connections are there. Sometimes we just need a little help to rediscover them.
And then you become older and the music and dance, and often connections, change yet again. It's time now, for me again to rediscover what the sound and the movement are for me, in this next stage of my life.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
ps…. And I totally love my children, and always wanted to be a mother, and I will always be their rock and their comfort. They make my heart sing, even when I can't always hear the music.
Do you like school holidays? Can you take the time to reconnect these holidays?
Depending on your family they can be a blessing or a curse. A chance to slow down the weekly grind or routine, or a be source of stress as children out of their routine don't know what do with their unstructured time.
Whilst we work on creating a school success schedule, how much work do we put into making school holidays a success?
It is also common for issues such as too much screen time to arise; as well as pressures to organise and clean the house and catch up on everything you didn't get to during the term (I hope that's not just me!),
Just a quick hint - try for some out of the house time each day. Have a look at what your local council, youth group, State parks and libraries have on. You may be surprised at their breadth of activities - particularly for primary school aged children.
A quick walk in your nearest park, a trip on a bus or train somewhere, visiting friends or a picnic in the backyard.
Try and make the time to plant your feet on sand, grass or soil. Try and make time to reconnect with your children and your world.
With divorce and separation common in our society it can be easy to take it for granted and fail to recognise the stress it provides for children caught in the middle.
The impact this event has on the children involved depends on many factors. These factors can include, the age of the children, how the adults speak to each other, what the adults tell the children, whether the parental split results in a less stressed home environment, the shared care arrangements, and the personality and temperament of the children. There are so many things going on at this time and often children are left to cope in their own emotional turmoil whilst the adults are battling it out.
...imagine how your child may be feeling. ... They don’t know what is going to change, what will stay the same. Where is Christmas going to be? Who is going to come to the school concert? Can they go to a birthday party that is on when it is the other parent’s turn to have them?
Three top tips about parenting (and all other advice books).
1. Check the credentials of the author and make sure you are comfortable with them.
2. With a problem/issue in mind check out a few different books to see which one/s ‘feel’ right. It is OK, in fact good, to feel challenged, but sometimes the ideas the author puts forward are just not right for you.
3. Parenting books are optional. They can inspire, engage, educate and help you feel connected with other parents. Alternatively they may make you feel inadequate depending on how what is happening for you emotionally and what individual struggles and problems your family is dealing with. In these situations particularly, it may be more beneficial to talk one on one with someone and get some targeted advice.
I like the books of Michael Carr-Greg, Andrew Fuller and Steve Biddulph because they tend to have some humour and practical advice. They are easy to pick up and dip and out of them, which is great for busy mums. I also think collections of stories where you here different voices around motherhood are great. (There are a couple of these in the below recommendations).
A couple of books that target particular behaviours are Bully Blocking by Evelyn Field (just be aware there is bad language in parts of it as she writes about what children have said when bullying other children). There are a range of strategies in here that can be used depending on the situation and the personality of your child. Sexts, Texts & Selfies by Susan McLean who is an expert in cybersafety is worth looking at for some understanding of what your children face in the digital world.
I asked some of my colleagues to recommend their favourite parenting book and have listed some of those below. They are in no particular order, and are quite varied in their style and content. The bigger, more complex ones might be great for holiday reading.
Towards Parenthood by Bronwyn Leigh and others. Recommended by Dr Tess Crawley from https://www.facebook.com/DrTessCrawleyAssociates/?ref=br_rs.
Raising an emotionally intelligent child by John Gottman; Getting to Calm; The Launching Years; Wise Minded Parenting by Laura Kastner; and The Drama of being a Child by Alice Miller. Recommended by Natalie Turvey from https://www.facebook.com/DropOfLifePtyLtd/?ref=br_rs.
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel. This is recommended by both Dr Hayley Quinn from http://www.quinntessentialpsychology.com and Natalie Turvey.
Momma Zen by Karen Miller; and Everyday Blessings by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn. These two are all very much about mindful parenting, self compassion and compassion
Love Wisdom Motherhood by Jessica Rowe. A compilation of stories of the transition to Motherhood.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel.. The Whole Brain Child is great in developing parenting skills but also empathy and compassion. (It was also recommended by Patricia Gee from Gallagher Psychology and Natalie Turvey.)
The above were all recommended by Amiee-Jade Pember A Community Psych at New Directions Psychology Service in Ballajura, WA. The comments about the books are all hers.
Parenting by Kathy Walker. Recommended by http://karepsychology.com.au..
Women who run with the Wolves. Recommended by Jamie Lee from https://www.facebook.com/30daysofgratitudeapp/. Jamie says “I love this book because it has the stories of women from around the world and different cultures to highlight our strength and stories that we carry with us. This book isn't specific to parenting but I love the story about the women that will protect her child but also nurture her child.”
If you have your own favourite to share, you can do so below.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is a Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Essential Self-Care for Psychologists.