The Messiness of Parenting and What You Can Do About it
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
How are you doing? Are your kids hanging on by a thread, leading up to the end of 2022? Or are you hanging on by a thread?
2022 seems to have been a pile of crap for most people I know, clients and myself. Some sort of COVID 19 hangover and the state of the world currently.
It has been a long shitty Winter here in Tasmania and the rain. The rain!
Recently, my kids have been a bit feral and their parents have too 🤪
Winter and/or relentless rain/grey days is definitely a thing that can contribute to low moods, an overall sense of overwhelm and flatness.
You’re not on your own, if you’re a bit on struggle street.
What are you doing that’s helping you and your family at the moment, or what are you doing that’s not so helpful?
Often we do things, or forget what we know we need to know, when things start to get stressful.
Time outs for ourselves, exercise, catching up with friends, having time with the significant other, taking time for self reflection or coming back to a tried and true strategy that does always help.
When stuff gets hard in my house, it always comes back to someone needing a time out. Namely, the parents, needing to take some time to themselves, to reconnect, then come back into the house, to fill the cups of the kids.
We don’t give our kids time outs and prefer to work with time ins, but time out’s for the pares are a great plan.
My hubby, I am sure he wouldn’t mind me saying, is a different person, when he surfs regularly. But if he doesn’t get his surf in, well, I’m sure you might be able to relate ;) We’ve been in the process of selling and buying a new house and it’s been a complete shit show, it’s fair to say.
Stress has been at about 99.9% at various times in our house, this year, due to some very difficult things and moving house. Distracted parenting, very little time for ourselves individually, the kids having to be parented in distracted ways, as well as their own stress with thinking about moving, or not moving, or moving (as the case has been). Anyway, what I have learned is that, time alone, to reboot, is super important. 1:1 time with the kids, at least 15 minutes undivided time is super helpful. Child led, let them pick the activity and just do stuff with them.
“Follow the giggles”
is one of my favourite connection things to do with my kids, that really helps them to release stress. My 6yo is a big joker, she is very strong minded, uncooperative (when her cup is empty) and incredibly helpful (when her cup is full) and generally doesn’t do things by halves. When she is laughing (providing it isn’t antagonising her sister), I follow what she is doing and do more of that.
Playing sumo wrestlers - we put cushions under our tops, is a favourite of hers. Loads of laughter and opportunities for me to be pushed over by her, in a safe way, helps obtain a sense of control and connection with me. Kids who have fuller cups are so much more likely to want to cooperate with you.
“My daughter is a different kid when her cup is full.”
What does your child love to do?
What do they need and when do you notice them being most cooperative?
My 8yo is a different nut to crack and definitely is heading into a tween stage. She’s upset with me this week, for enforcing some boundaries, which she didn’t like. “I hate you” and “I don’t like you” have been high on the agenda for her.
And a particularly fun point was when she googled the “c” word and told me that’s what I was. Yep. The c word has never been said in our house, picked that one up from school I think!. The f bomb is a different story, however!
My 8yo is also very strong willed too haha. Anyway, none of this did I take personally and none of which did I react to at the time. (GO ME)! I validated - “You must be so angry.” “I’m hearing you’re so upset with me.” “That’s ok you don’t have to love/like me right now, I love you no matter what.” And when she was much calmer, after many emotional storms had passed. After we talked about her favourite thing and read her favourite book right now “Horses and Ponies,” we talked about what was upsetting her and that there are other ways to communicate how we feel.
Everything inside me wanted to roar, on occasion. But I know that keeping connection, even in the hardest, most challenging parts of our kids anger or whatever their difficult thing is, means that, in the long term, you’re giving your kids the message, that
“you’re loved, even when you’re angry, even at your worst, I love you.”
If your parents unconditionally accept you, then this gives the message that we can accept ourselves.
Parents acceptance = the development of self acceptance/self love/self compassion.
Don’t get me wrong it isn’t always like this in the house and there are plenty of things I wish I hadn’t said to my kids and unnecessary anger. My kids have there fair load of generational trauma that is still working it’s way through our family, unfortunately.
In most houses I know…
Parenting is messy. It’s harder than we thought. It brings us to our knees. It makes our hearts explode with the sheer joy and love of it. It makes us want to run, escape and long for an easier life. It makes us think about ourselves and how we can grow. It makes us reflect on our partnerships, lack of partnerships or a desire for a significant change. Parenting makes us grow. And we’ll never stop growing, if we’re open to self reflection, self acceptance and most important thing to keep focussing on is, not the parenting strategy, but the unconditional love that you show to your child.
Let them know they’re loved, in the messy, hard, relentless days.
Let them know they’re loved when they’re doing good stuff, difficult stuff and any stuff.
And learn to accept (love yourself - hard to hear for some I know - but doing this, again gives children the message, that they are worthy of self love themselves). You’re doing a great job, I know you are.
Sarah Purvey is the founder and director of Eastern Shore Psychology, in Hobart, Tasmania. Sarah predominantly supports those with PTSD, workers compensation matters and parents during the perinatal period and well beyond. Sarah also enjoys supporting psychologists to have rewarding and long psychology careers.