In order to parent our children in a healthy, loving manner, it can be helpful to take a step back and reflect upon the way we were parented. Since parents are not provided with " how to manuals" when their children are born, it is not unusual for new parents to practice the same parenting style that they were exposed to as children. Did you grow up in a home that was safe, secure and loving for the most part? Were your parents actively engaged in regular, positive, and open communication with you? Did your parents acknowledge and support your emotions ( positive and negative) growing up? Was your parent's approach to discipline fair and did it provide guidance and teaching? Looking back, how would you describe the parenting style used by your parents? Was it for the most part balanced and consistent? Might your parents have been harsh and insensitive on occasion when you were seeking empathy and understanding from them? Or alternatively, were there times when they may have been indulgent and overly lenient? Did you have opportunities for fun as a family growing up? Reflecting back on how you were parented while thinking about what kind of parent you want to be can be an illuminating experience.
Chances are many of us did not grow up in a completely optimal home environment ( arguably a rare experience ) and it is important to understand that our parents may have also faced challenges under their own parent's upbringing or life experience. While we can't change the past, we can work through our childhood experiences and current day triggers to better parent our children in a thoughtful and intentional fashion. Sometimes the attachments ( or lack of ) we had to our parents resulted in us shutting down our feelings to numb the pain of not being seen, soothed or safe. On occasion, specific childhood traumas we endured in the past, may lead us to perceive ongoing threats in our lives today and cause our emotions to feel out of control at times. If you feel as though your past and / or intense emotional reactions are getting in the way of how you respond to your child or children, you may wish to seek out professional support. This will provide insight to help you understand your emotional reactions and find a new ways to express yourself that allow existing relationships to thrive and grow.
Dr. Gordon Neufeld in his Parenting video series " Power 2 Parent " talks about a parent's secure attachment with a child being the most critical factor to raising a loving child with good behaviours and a healthy sense of self. Many factors contribute to our ability to attach securely to our loved ones:
- our past experiences
- our own emotional health
- our stress load - work, financial matters, family life, health, competing priorities
- how supported or not supported we are in our relationships
- our ability to have empathy for ourselves and others
- our acceptance of mistakes and willingness to learn from these challenges
- our reflectiveness and openness to learn new ways of surviving and thriving
Help yourself to be the best parent you can be... Find a way to be warm, affectionate and responsive to your child and this will create a safe oasis from which your child can develop to their full potential. Listen for feelings and try to respond calmly instead of reacting. You can do it! Your kids are worth it!
Until next time, Joanne