Become a Resilient Parent
Parents often come to me with concerns about their child’s behavior or their reactions to outside influences and pressures and want advice on how to fix this issue. It helps immensely to take a closer look at the parent’s behavior to stress and stressors in the home environment. Studies show that parent stress levels can impact the genes involved in brain development of their children and this often becomes apparent in the teen years.
Parenting and protecting our children starts from within us. You've heard it over and over again, "Put your oxygen mask on first," "You must care of yourself in order to care for others," "If your tank is empty, you have nothing left to give." There is immense truth to this wisdom. It doesn't mean it's easy but you must begin to change your mindset and prioritize yourself if you REALLY want to care for your kids. Check out this quiz from the Greater Good Science Center to learn more about your current stress level.
Being a Resilient Parent has Two Components – Your Resilience as a Human and the Protective Factors that Create Parental Resilience
It is never too late to start building resilience, and the process is the same for a child as it is for an adult. Resilience is like a muscle that we can strengthen with mindfulness of our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. We can become more mindful of our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. We can learn to take time for ourselves and practice self-compassion. We can learn to draw on our individual strengths as a parent and reflect on how to build up our weaker strengths. We can choose the people we surround ourselves with and the information and attitudes we let into our day. We have the ability to enhance our resources (If you didn’t read Part 1 “How to grow a resilient child” you can find a list of the resources that contribute to resilience.)
LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THE 6 PROTECTIVE FACTORS TO DEVELOP PARENTAL RESILIENCE
1. Being Strong and Flexible –This is resilience as a human. The ability to get back up when life knocks you down. To show up and respond to difficulties rather than reacting, avoiding or ruminating so that you can make better decisions. This is your ability to notice your thoughts and reframe them if necessary to better control your emotions and actions.
2. Social Connections – Parents need friends. Social connections give our life meaning. Examine who you spend time with. Are your relationships reciprocal? Are they supportive? How often do you spend time in these relationships?
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
— John Rohn
3. Concrete Support in Times of Need – The hardest time to ask for help is when we need it the most. Life is not about going it alone, yet we fear receiving support during difficult times and are less likely to share struggles with friends and family. Common fears keeping us from seeking help are:
Worrying we will be dismissed rather than supported
Feeling uncomfortable, or afraid we will get too emotional
Feeling like a burden
Concerned that it will show a side of us that does not match what we want to present to the outside world
Feeling like a failure
However, by asking for support, you give people the power to positively influence you. Letting others in helps us resolve, or correct things that led to the problem helps stop excessive criticism and helps us cope by reminding us we are safe and important.
4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – Being a great parent is part natural but it is also learned. We all remember the great memories of our own childhood that we want to carry forward with our kids. We also know the things we don’t want to repeat. Finding the balance can be hard. Parenting is a continuous learning process, and it’s important to understand a child’s capacity for growth and functioning iso that we can have realistic expectations for them. It's true that there is no parenting manual, however, today there are so many great resources available to us. Work with a parenting coach, take a parenting class, or if you have time, just pick up a book, there are so many great options out there!
5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children – Parents need to teach these skills to their children.Children are not born knowing how to manage their emotions, express their needs, identify their feelings, deal with conflict, and get along with others. Unlike physical and cognitive development, where our body and brain are hardwired to develop, we explicitly learn social and emotional development. I had a parent ask me the other day “Where should my 11-year-old be emotionally? Is he typically developing?” And the answer is: He should be wherever you have taught him to be. There are some tasks, such as emotional regulation, that neurologically are not fully developed before a certain age, but if they are never taught, they are never developed. Even as adults, this is an area of our life that can continuously be improved. If your child does not have social and emotional competence (EQ), it adds undue stress to your life by difficult interactions with your child and between your child and the outside world. So, for better parental resilience, you must help your child develop their EQ.
6. Healthy Parent-Child Relationships – A relationship of mutual love and respect. Recognize that everything that parenting consists of – limit setting, discipline, nurturing, development – must all take place through the lens of mutual love and respect. Part of this means valuing your child’s feelings and dignity. Empowering your child to contribute positively to the family and their development. The other part involves valuing yourself and protecting your needs and feelings.
RESILIENT PARENTS ARE MINDFUL AND HAVE COMPASSION FOR THEMSELVES, THEIR CHILDREN AND OTHERS. THEY DEMONSTRATE STRENGTHS SUCH AS KEEPING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE, SOLVING PROBLEMS CREATIVELY, AND TAKING LIFE EVENTS IN STRIDE.
Wherever you are and whatever choices you’ve made in the past, you must know that you have the potential to make different ones moving forward. Don’t feel a sense of urgency and stress about making these changes. Changes do not happen overnight and growth is a lifelong process. Give yourself the space and self-compassion to make small changes to work towards your bigger picture. What are your values? What kind of adult would you like your child to be? Looking back 20 years from now, what do you wish you would have done differently? As you think about your life, if someone were writing your story, how would you like to be remembered? Now think of one small step that you can take today that will get you closer to that picture.