What can I do when parenting feels hard?

We all have really hard days in parenting, where we are exhausted and overwhelmed, pushed right to the edge, where there are a lot of tears and emotion, where we respond harshly to our children and where it all feels impossible and so far away from how we want it to be in our families. Living in our nuclear families makes it so much harder too – we don’t have the support and companionship we need, our children aren’t surrounded by a tribe of other loving beings and we feel alone and disconnected.

I had a horrible day yesterday – one of the hardest ever in my parenting. There was a lot of emotion, arguments, shouting, trying (and failing) to set loving limits, tears and deep deep sadness. It was tough. So I reached out for support from my listening partner, I got out my journal, I let the tears flow and kept trying to give myself deep compassion. I cancelled my prior arrangements with some beautiful friends who I know won’t judge me, I took little steps to fill my cup and I kept coming back to the deep love I feel for my children. I took time to reflect back on the day when I felt better and I thought, with loving kindness and no judgement, how I might respond differently next time.

On days like these, I remind myself that the goal is not to raise perfect children, with no control patterns, who never “misbehave”, never have challenges and with whom we never argue. The goal with aware parenting is to keep coming back to the basics of connection and listening to feelings when we can, to model self-compassion and self-forgiveness, to rewind and repair when there has been harshness and disconnection with our children.  And the most important part of self-compassion is not judging ourselves when we aren’t the parent we want to be, not falling into feeling guilty or shameful, all of which add to the disconnection and make reconnection so much harder. And most of us are the first generation of parents who are parenting in this way, so we are healing our own pain and wounds whilst trying to parent very differently in a culture that does not understand or support this way of parenting. So we are so deserving of loving compassion!

I remind myself that, with aware parenting, we are trying to give our kids the strategies and permission to express big feelings when they have them, to let them out, even when it feels so charged for us to hear it.  We offer them the support to listen, to re-connect and we find ways to show them that our relationship with them is the priority for us.

Placing pressure on ourselves as parents to “get parenting right”, to do aware parenting “properly”, to never mess up, to always be the parent we want to be, makes parenting harder. We can’t ensure our children don’t suffer or struggle with the things we had to endure, we cannot help but be reminded of our own pain and suffering and our children’s behaviour frequently takes us right back to the pain of our younger parts. There is no such thing as perfect parenting or perfect families – this is completely unrealistic, unattainable, unhelpful and unkind. We are inevitably going to struggle and have really hard days and our children are going to struggle and have really hard days too. We are all going to have times when we feel intense sadness, anger, grief, frustration, powerlessness and these feelings are inevitably going to affect how we behave. Our children’s intense feelings are going to push us right up against our own unhealed hurts and pain and this is going to mean we react, we shout, we argue, we fall apart.

Awareness, acceptance and self-compassion are key. Recently, after rewinding with my daughter and after apologising for not being a model aware parent instructor, she reminded me so beautifully that “just because you are a parenting expert, it doesn’t mean you always have to be an expert parent”.

When we get support for our feelings, we are modelling that practice to our children, we are getting the help we need to come back to balance ourselves and we are then able to show up and support our children with loving listening, to hold a loving space for their feelings, to set loving limits for them to access and release the feelings that are underneath their behaviour. We show them and we remind ourselves that it’s ok to have big feelings, to navigate our way through it and to come out the other side. Our children learn that having big feelings is normal, that they are safe to feel them and express them to us and that we love them unconditionally, no matter what they are telling us. We are showing them that, when it all feels too much and too big for us to be by their side in that moment, we will take steps away to re-fill ourselves, so we can come back to loving our children and supporting them.

If you are having a hard time right now, I send you so much love and a gentle reminder to reach out for support and care for you. I understand how hard it can be and I am here to support you when you need it.

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Aware Parenting with Joss

I am so passionate about sharing this beautiful approach with parents. I believe that Aware Parenting is THE solution for so many of the challenges facing the world. - Joss Goulden, Aware Parenting Instructor
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