parenting-through-pain

Parenting through pain

On a good day, parenting is awesome. In those fleeting moments of parental symphony we get to feel fully connected to our kids and it’s like all is well with the world. But parenting when we are hurting or in seasons of pain, is a whole different story. Parenting through seasons of loss such as separation, bereavement or divorce is seriously challenging, and that is putting it mildly. When we are really digging deep to face our own challenging circumstances, it can feel like there is very little left in the tank for our kids. How are we meant to hold our child’s big feelings when we can hardly hold on to our own?

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When our own emotional tank is empty it’s like our kids have their own special little superpowers to push all our buttons at once. It’s like they know the pin and password to all our emotions and set about spending up large. Whether it’s staging a tantrum of their own, pressing in with endless questions, or bickering mindlessly with their siblings, it’s like they sense our fragility and make a beeline for our attention. This clever little strategy is a wired in survival instinct. When our kids sense that we have other stuff going on, and they might be losing our attention, they actively set about finding all sorts of creative ways to stay close. Because their survival depends on it.

For those days when you are down in the dust and parenting seems all a bit too demanding, or it feels like you are meeting everyone else’s needs except your own, here, this one’s for you.

Put your favourite people on speed dial

Our kids look to us to meet their needs for security and connection. In the same way it’s vital we look to the community around us for our support. Our kids cannot be our support, we need to get that from other adults.

Packaging up our pain and sharing it with someone we trust might not solve everything but it does help us feel like we’re not invisible. Having the names and numbers of special people who can stand with us with all that we are facing is vital for our wellbeing. Putting our precious peeps on speed dial helps us feel like although we’re still struggling, someone has our back and we’re not in this alone.

Get less done

If you can manage to give yourself permission to subscribe to ‘good enough’ parenting (as opposed to perfect parenting) then now is your time to shine. Even if it means running a little late or forgetting a few things every now and again, you have full permission to push back on the idea that you have to get it right 100 percent of the time. Try not to set the bar too high in terms of getting things ‘achieved’ – for now, anyway. The most important thing is that your kids see and hear you being kind to yourself and to them – even if means you get less done!

Hearty high fives

There is nothing like running late to lift the stress odometer at home. Sometimes taking those extra two minutes (which you feel like you don’t have!) to crouch down and wait patiently while your child ties, and painfully re-ties, their shoelaces can be the connection time they’re craving. When we follow up their efforts with a hearty high five, they get to feel truly seen and affirmed by us. The two minutes waiting patiently might save us that extra five minutes of barking and biting that we resort to when we feel under time pressure.

Reach for the oxygen

When your own resources feel depleted, it’s time to ‘put your own mask on first’. Whatever care looks like for you, it’s important that you get it. Even if it’s in tiny increments. You might decide it’s a cup of tea, a walk to the letterbox, a coffee with a friend or a quick dance in the living room. We all need a buffer and some space to breathe, so finding the space to reset and refresh our own heart and mind allows us to find the oxygen to parent.

Take two

This is such a quick win. Sometimes we think we sound like a cute little kitten but to our kids we sound like a big burly tiger. When we communicate in a kind and warm tone of voice with our kids, they will often respond in more helpful ways. Try it.

Stay tuned for that shouty voice that turns up when you are under pressure, and when it turns up, try subbing it for your calm tone with, “Just a moment, let me try that again with my calm mummy voice.” They will find this very funny. When that tiger voice accidentally slips out, sometimes we need to ask our kids’ permission to start over with a simple ‘take two’ which buys us some time to regroup and have another go.

Hum along

When life throws us curve balls, sometimes we just need to hum along for a while. Resisting the urge to rail against things that are out of our control often just zaps us of energy and leaves us feeling washed up and exhausted. When it all feels way too much, it’s like we need to reset the atmosphere at home. Music can be super helpful for calming the mood. It does not take the pain away but it does soothe the heart, calm the atmosphere and lift the vibe.

Kids love it and it requires very little effort on our part. If you don’t have the energy to talk, argue, explain, then try belting out your favourite tune or humming and dancing. It resets the atmosphere, lifts the mood and calms the amygdala. It’s like taking a mini holiday in a room.

You are still the answer

Pain is pain and sadly life does throw us seasons and circumstances when it just sucks. But here is one for the fridge – “You are the answer to every question for your child.”

Even if you walk with a limp for a bit, your child will be okay because you are there with them. Even if it feels like you can’t give them everything you dreamed of just now, take their hand, and the hand of a friend and walk with courage and compassion for a bit and soon enough this too will pass and the sun will be out again.


Book a session with a Family Coach

family-coachSometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.

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About Author

Jo Batts

For Jo, relationships are at the heart of whānau. Jo is our Family, Relationships and Marriage coach at Parenting Place working with family, sibling and relational dynamics. She’s a counsellor, a strengths coach, a parent, a partner, and the leader of our relationships and marriage programme. Jo's down-to-earth approach helps people to develop the practical tools to build healthy relationships for everyday life.

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