When I started my psychotherapist studies, I was a young mother of two boys, reading assiduously to understand how things go with babies, later with toddlers and now with teens. I knew that information could ease my life and it did. More than that, my intentions were – and still are now as a psychotherapist specialized in Family Systemic Therapy – to share all this knowledge so that us, parents, can focus on the bright side of parenthood.
The first discovery I made was, that it all begins with us, as parents. As parenting has a lot to do with the influence that our parents and the culture we lived in had on us, starting to assess our legacy is the first step. This is about discovering what we unconsciously took from our parents and what we are giving forward to our kids.
You can begin by looking at childhood photos to bring back memories. Ask yourself what were you thinking and feeling as a child? Who gave you love and attention? Did you miss something as a child? What unmet wishes did you have?
Another thing to do is to focus on your child as an individual, not as someone you have a right upon. Yes, we have the responsibility of creating a person, but that person is not me and shouldn’t be my ideal self. Some of the mistakes I made, was to focus on what my children are not, instead of on what they are. Now I try to show them options for what they could become, guide and support them when they need help. I know that I cannot “fly” for them, just as baby birds leave their nest learning to fly themselves.
Beyond basic needs like shelter, food, clothing, kids need us to understand their worth. They need our allowance for them to be who they are. They need our accepting presence connecting with their authenticity.
When we make time to connect with our kids, we build a trustful and positive relationship with them. This will be useful as they grow up, when our influence becomes less and less. Then, only through a good relationship, can we be part of their inner world and support their needs.
Understanding emotions, knowing to express but also to accept them is very important for both parents and kids. In my practice, I see adults who have the perception that they cannot deal with difficult situations because as children, they were “spared” doing so. In my understanding, if kids understand that negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, anger are also part of life, they will be better prepared for an uncertain future. Just take a look at children’s literature — it is filled with young heroes overcoming obstacles and fears.
Teach yourself and your kids communication and active listening skills. This ensures that your message comes across as you meant it. Learn the basics of conflict management and de-escalation skills and be prepared to solve conflicts constructively. It will spare you from saying things you don’t want and help you and your child to actually solve conflicts. Don’t worry if it’s not always working. Relationship dynamics are complex and we can constantly improve on them.
#Problem solving skills
Always try to involve kids in finding solutions. Many kids suffering from anxiety or depression cannot solve their problems. On the contrary, developing problem-solving skills at a young age will help them take responsibility and see themselves as a means for action. A very simple technique is to make a mind map with the problem in the middle and brainstorm solutions together; anticipating consequences for each solution will lead to choosing the most appropriate one. If it’s working, celebrate the success. If not, stop, look, correct and try again.
Teach your kids to accept their fears and go ahead and do things. This way they become doers, not avoiders. There is no guarantee of success, but if they learn that the pain of failing is part of life, they will be more courageous and not stay stuck in situations because they don’t want to suffer.
The list does not end here. I feel I am far from being a perfect parent, but looking back to where I was, I am proud that I have made many signs of progress, I learned a lot about how to overcome moments of frustration, anger and disappointment and most of it is because I feel good about myself, I’m aware of my limits and I know I am resourceful.
Elena Padurariu is a VFN member, mother and psychotherapist specialized in Family Systemic Therapy. She is experienced in working with individuals, couples and parents, with a focus on promoting well-being and helping people improve relationships with themselves and others.