Being a parent can be one of the most joyful life experiences – and also the hardest. As parents, we want to do a good job raising our kids. The trouble is, children don’t come with a “how to” manual – and every age and stage of development seems to present a new set of challenges. Even the most experienced parents struggle, because every child is different and their needs constantly change.
As a parent, you are the most important and influential person in your child’s life.
If you were lucky enough to have great parents as role models, you know what patient, accountable, and loving parenting looks like. For most of us, our parents “did their best” – and made mistakes along the way. And in some less fortunate cases, our parents were absent, selfish, neglectful or even abusive.
The good news: if your parenting role models were less than ideal, it’s not too late to learn and practice positive parenting skills.
As a parent, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel alone or isolated, with no one to talk to?
- Are you repeating negative patterns that you learned from your parents?
- Do you feel unable to cope with stressful situations such as:
- soothing a crying baby
- a toddler who refuses to eat
- a teenager who is taking risks or making poor choices
- dealing with a young adult struggling with the transition to adulthood
- Do you feel exhausted or is your health suffering due to the stress of parenting?
- Are you in a power struggle with your child?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, know that you are not alone. Recognizing that you need extra help or strategies to deal with difficult situations is not a weakness – it’s a sign of strength.
Here are some things you can do.
- Remind yourself that social, emotional and physical development in children and adolescents is a work in progress – and your child is doing their best to figure out the world around them.
- Connect with friends, neighbors, or other family members who have gone through similar experiences or are simply good role models. Observe how they do things and pick up helpful tips from people you trust.
- Be a book worm. Your local library should have lots of books on practically every parenting topic – from sleep training and discipline, to nutrition and communication. Find one that fits your needs and values.
- Talk to a professional. Counsellors, social workers or psychologists are trained to help parents or caregivers come up with strategies and techniques to deal with whatever is going on.
- Be good to yourself. During stressful periods, parents often forget to take care of themselves. Mental and physical wellness is critical to being an effective parent (and a happier person). Some people like to hit the treadmill or walking path, whereas others relax and rejuvenate by listening to music or taking a bubble bath. Do what works for you. And remember, you are not only taking care of yourself, you are modelling healthy self-care behaviours for your children. It’s a win win!
For more information, check out these links:
Hugh McGeary, MSW, RSW, Marriage and Family Therapist
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