Dear Parents and Caregivers,
There were times when my kids were little when I would find myself, hands in the air, looking toward the sky and thinking “I have no idea what to do in this moment” as if I were asking for divine intervention to swoop down and wave its magic wand to create the peace I so deeply desired.
Yes, parenting did not come easy to me. I loved my kids to death – and continue to – and I found loads of joy in being with them, but when the you-know-what hit the fan and emotions were raging, all I wanted was calm, rationality and control. I was at a loss. A complete loss. There were moments when I hated how my children and I interacted – the tantrums, the high emotions, the bedtime battles, the neediness – and my lack of ability to deal with it all effectively.
As I wrote in my previous column, parental burnout is real, and I imagine there were times when I was there. I knew I needed help – I wanted help – but I didn't know how to ask, where to look, and I was afraid anyone I talked to wouldn't be able to talk to me in a way that aligned with my thoughts on parenting. So I struggled – and worked really hard to figure it out on my own. But I lost a lot of good time with my children, which could have been avoided if I had gotten help.
Don’t make the mistake I made. As I write in last week's Jackson Hole News & Guide, you don’t need to suffer through challenged family dynamics. Asking for parenting support in no way means you are a bad parent – rather the contrary – it means you care enough to take the time to work on things that don’t feel right. You and your children will benefit. Time is precious with our children – and so are you!
Be well, go hug your kids, and take good care of yourselves and others.
With love and faith in you,
Parenting is tough; it's OK to ask for help
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE:
I’ve worked with a few families over the years who’ve told me they waited a year to finally call me and ask for support. When I asked them why it had taken them so long to pick up the phone, they said family life had finally gotten really challenging. It made me wonder: why do we wait to ask for help?
Parenting feels especially hard for many of us right now. The world has become a more and more complicated landscape in which to raise children. In normal times, let alone during a pandemic, so many aspects of parenting – managing the household, childcare, differing schedules, work, various behaviors and everyone’s emotions – can be psychologically exhausting.
Yet we don't ask for help.
Very few of us come into raising children with a degree in psychology or child development. All we know is that our kids refuse to get into the car and we've got an 8:00 meeting we have to get to and we'll do whatever it takes to get them buckled in so we can get to work on time. And often that involves a tactic that leaves us feeling undermined, angry, exhausted or just plain sad.
Why is it we don’t ask for help?
We believe we’re supposed to know what to do. We feel like failures if there are challenges in our family lives that we don't know how to manage. Parents have been raising children for generations – shouldn't this come naturally to us?
Yet parenting is complicated – and it’s messy. As we seek to prepare our children to enter this increasingly complicated world, and as we continue to understand the neuroscience of the developing brain, parenting roles and ideas have shifted. We were given a manual to learn how to drive, but no one handed out the manual telling us how to calmly remove the digital device from our screaming 6-year or coax our angry teen into spending time with us. Our children’s behaviors can seem irrational and can trigger our strong reactions, and we are inundated by often conflicting advice from every angle. It is normal to not know how to respond in every situation.
We don’t feel we can carve out the time. Life is busy. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have an extra second for anything. We don’t have the time to intentionally work out solutions with our children or attend a parenting class because we are frantically trying to take care of everything else, put out fires and keep the peace.
Yet sometimes taking a step back to get help with new strategies and ways of responding, creating routines and systems with our children, or taking time to problem solve issues in relationships can actually save time in the long run, bring a lighter atmosphere into the home and prevent some of the fires from igniting in the first place.
Sometimes it takes a shifting of priorities: Perhaps let go of the condition of the house or have cereal for dinner so you can take a walk with a trusted friend or create a workable morning routine with your children.
We live in a society that prides itself on self-sufficiency and independence. As such, asking for help is perceived as a weakness. As in other aspects of our lives we believe if we just work harder, plan more and do the background research we can be successful and well respected.
“Yet,” an article in HuffPost says, “when self-sufficiency is taken to the extreme, the burden of too much responsibility can cause stress, unrealistic expectations, lack of self acceptance and no acknowledgment of personal needs…..and in our society the bar continually gets higher and the risk of burnout is huge”.
This belief that we should be able solve our problems on our own leads us to pushing off asking for help until the point where we are really suffering.
If you are struggling – or even if if you’re not but feel like some fine tuning could help – but are afraid to reach out, try using author Peggy Collins “ACT Formula”:
A – What are you afraid of? What is preventing you from asking for help? Fear of rejection? Appearing vulnerable? Surrender of power?
C – Let go of feeling you have to control everything and that asking feels like giving up that control.
T – Learn to trust yourself enough to reach out and take a chance that you can trust someone else.”
What does help look like?
Help can come in different forms. Figure out what works for you and don't be afraid to ask for it. Find a community of parents to talk to. Ask a friend to swap childcare so you can take care of yourself. Talk to your partner about balancing out the family workload. Seek support for working through your children's pesky behaviors that are making parenting no longer fun for you.
Don’t wait until daily life finally feels unbearable. You don’t need to suffer through challenged family dynamics. Asking for parenting support in no way means you are a bad parent – rather the contrary – it means you care enough to take the time to work on things that don’t feel right. The wellbeing of your children and the quality of your family life are important. You and your children will benefit. Time is precious with our children – and so are you!
Rachel Wigglesworth has an M.Ed. in Parent and Family Education and is excited to explore the world of raising children with you!