Counselling for Parents
As parents, we need to be able to deal with both the behaviour and the human being behind the behaviour. Learn how to think and feel your way through important moments with your child as opposed to reacting to them.
Parenting is an amazing, challenging journey. It’s filled with moments that touch your heart deeper than you could ever imagine. But it can also be frustrating – your skills and patience stretched to their limits as you try to help your child grow into a healthy, happy adult. Children have an amazing ability to behave in a way that drives us crazy and leaves us baffled. Sometimes we can only watch in awe as they somehow pinpoint the places where we have not healed our own emotional wounds, the places where, usually for good reasons based on past experiences, psychological growth has been thwarted.
For instance, if you have a hard time showing strong emotions, it seems you are sure to be ‘blessed’ with a child that has no problem yelling or crying loudly in a public place, at home, or any place or time that will leave you red-faced and frustrated. If you are a person that works really hard to fit in, no doubt your child will be one determined to stand out from the crowd, quite willing to act in ways you consider sociably unacceptable.
Believe it or not, this talent is actually quite divine. It brings an opportunity to grow as a family. Certainly our natural instinct is to shut it down. Sometimes in fact, the behavior needs changing, especially if the child is putting themselves at risk. But, if we focus on changing the behavior, as opposed to understanding our own reaction to it, we miss learning opportunities that can bring invaluable additions to our parenting skills and to our own personal growth as human beings. Both the change and the understanding are necessary.
Young children are only ever trying to get their needs met. This does not mean all behavior is acceptable. It does mean however, that parents need to be able to think clearly in these situations. We need to be able to evaluate effectively. What are the needs of this child? Have they been met? What are they really asking for? Have my needs been met? Whose job is that? Are my expectations age/developmentally appropriate for this child?
For instance, asking a young child not to feel something is not a developmentally appropriate request. They can’t do that until about the age of 7, because their brains simply haven’t developed enough to be able to handle the challenging task of suppressing emotions. The best thing you can do as a parent is to empathize and help them give words to their feelings and their experience. If your child grabs a toy from another child, the temptation is to take the toy away and give it back to the child that had it first. In an instant your child is wailing at what they perceive as the arbitrary unfairness of the act. This can feel embarrassing or frustrating. We would just like our child to share nicely. However, It’s our job to enter our child’s world and help give language and meaning to their experience. Our job is to keep their self esteem and personhood intact, yet still let them know the behaviour is unacceptable.
As our children grow up their problems become more sophisticated and complex. This can appear in many different forms. Lying, stealing, excluding, bullying, name calling, being a victim are typical examples. As parents, we need to be able to deal with the behavior. We also need to recognize the human being behind the behavior and seek to understand what is triggering those actions. To do this, it’s helpful to have a solid understanding of our children’s needs and developmental stages. In addition, it’s beneficial to examine our own experiences and work on those places that have not been healed. Counselling offers an excellent opportunity to do this.
At Steadfast Counselling, we view parenting as a kind of spiritual journey. It can bring you to your knees when you feel as though you may have exhausted all your knowledge and things still are not going the way you would expect them to go. But in those trying times, there is also room to grow. We see those moments as a ‘choice point’. You can tighten the reins and force the behavior or outcome you want to see, with consequences so severe your child has no choice but to obey. Or, you can open yourself up, and discover what you are really being called upon to learn and to teach as a parent. It is in these moments our families can evolve to allow new possibilities. Each member of the family can become stronger as our children are able to truly see their parents’ care and concern for them, while understanding that their individuality is honoured and respected. In counselling you will have the opportunity to learn how to think and feel your way through these important moments as opposed to reacting to them. You will learn what is really being asked of you and how to best respond to the current crisis.