The other evening, my husband and I sat chatting over a glass of wine and, as parents do, we very quickly began talking about the children. We often analyse our own parenting. It just seems natural to us, in our bid to raise decent humans, that we reflect on the things that go well. Or don't.
My husband said that lockdown has left him feeling guilty. Welcome to my everyday, buddy. Despite seeing so much of the kids and being around the lunch and dinner table with us, he sees disappointment in their eyes, particularly in our youngest, when he turns down their pleads to play hide and seek. The daily juggle that mums are used to; how to keep everyone happy, entertained and fed whilst keeping the house in some order and for many mums, working too. The guilt weighs heavy. Lockdown means working from home, but to our 3 year old, it just means we're home. He has no concept of what work means or what pressure careers can bring, especially when you depend on one income. It doesn't matter how much we'd love to hang with our little dudes, building garden forts and picnicking under the tree, we have to give time to other things. Unless we are willing to go homeless or insane, which funnily enough, we're not. But our youngest doesn't understand that. They get quality time with us. I'm a massive advocate for connecting deeply with our children. We routinely make a conscious effort to have fun and spend time together but if I'm honest, I think no matter how much quality time we give they'd always ask for more!
So, why do we feel guilty when the majority of the time we're not giving the whole of ourselves to our children, is so we can do things FOR them. Like earn money to keep them sheltered and fed! Or take time for ourselves because it just makes us a nicer! Our expectations are unrealistic, thats why. These are moments to teach our children to respect the needs to others. To understand how to be patient or find a way through boredom. We feel guilty because their emotional discomfort hurts us, yet we feel we're the cause too. Complicated!
I came to the realisation during our chat, that we have to accept we won't always be the 'perfect parent'. I think so many of us think 'perfect parenting' means taking our children through childhood without being the cause of their difficult emotions. I don't think that's possible. That's not to say we shouldn't try. But sometimes, our job is to guide our children through challenging feelings that are directly related to us because it prepares them for life. Somehow we have to find a way to do that in the least toxic way we can and keeping attachments healthy! One of biggest lessons we can take from it is self forgiveness. We do the best we can with what we know. I think that has to be our aim.
They're heading back to school in Australia, they're planning on heading back to school next week in England. At some point, we're all going to have to find our way through the transition from lockdown at home to a new school environment. Many parents are understandably nervous and apprehensive about it. Some are choosing not to return to school right now. Some have had such a positive home schooling experience they've decided that's the way forward for them. If there's one thing parents have taken from this time, it's a clearer perspective on education. How important is it? What's the best environment for their child to learn in? Maybe even a new found appreciation for teachers!
For those children who are eligible, able and have chosen to return to school, it's important to prepare them for the changes they are going to find. After what has been the biggest change many kids have experienced in their lives, they need to head back to school with a positive mindset and an understanding that the changes are there for good reason. But we also want to balance that with them feeling safe and secure, rather than unnerved by the new environment. Even if children are genuinely excited about going back to their school, a smooth return depends on preparation. It's crucial that parents and teachers don't underestimate the impact the last few months have taken. It may take time for children to process and show their feelings about the school closures and lockdown, so we must tread carefully, guiding our children back into new normal.
Some of the things we'll need to prepare them for include:
How to we go about preparing our children for these changes?
These are strange times, but with a little extra guidance from us, we can take our children smoothly through these changes.
We need to talk about partners and parenting in partnership.
It’s hard to find common ground when it comes to parenting our children with our partners. The differences you and your partner had in childhood significantly impacts the approach that each of you take now. We are all heavily influenced by our own upbringing and the tendency is to repeat the parenting we experienced. The key is to decide what parenting we want our own children to experience, but that of course takes an element of awakening. I have many friends who make a great couple but parenting is the one area that causes many 'discussions'. Whispers of, "It never did me any harm," marking the end of many. When of course it probably did on some level. Add in personality or tolerance levels, and even if you’ve got similar parenting values, applying them in reality may not always make for the dreamy family life you envisioned. Familiar? ⠀⠀
In our home we are, fortunately, on the same wavelength. But despite being probably the most level, smartest person I’ve ever met, my husband turns to me when he doesn’t know how to handle a situation with the kids. Or THINKS he can’t. Even when he can. In our home the difference in our parenting approach comes down to our individual tolerance levels. We are both introverts, but my husband struggles more with too much sensory stimulation (loud kids with big emotions stresses his nervous system!). BUT, here’s the thing. Sometimes I don’t have the answer. Or my mum tank has been drained and I’m out of mum energy. Or I’m just trying to do my own thing for 5 mins without interruption!! ⠀⠀
It can feel like there is no real option for in that scenario. It can feel like a lose-lose situation for the parent who usually has more tolerance or a gentler mindset when it comes to parenting. For that parent it either can feel like you have to step up and find the reserves, taking what feels like more from yourself than your body and mind can really handle, or let the kids down. When I talk to friends and my instagram community, you tell me you feel the same. You feel overwhelmed in those moments where in a split second you see your two paths playing out ahead of you: find that bit extra, even though you’re so overstimulated by everyone else’s needs, or lose it. Letting out all your own stuff in big, hot, angry ways for a brief moment of relief, shortly followed by your child’s crumpled face and a tsunami of guilt. ⠀⠀
Compromise and personal development for both parents means one person doesn’t use up everything in their reserve tank before they’ve had time to refuel. This means creating a joint approach; talking through ideals and values to find a common ground, agreeing on approaches to regular issues, agreeing to back each other up and not undermine and stepping in for the other if you can see your partner struggling.
Share the load. And I mean the emotional one. It’s not down to one parent to do all the parenting. ⠀⠀
Hey! I'm the founder, creator and voice of Ink and Scribbles. Sharing thoughts on child well-being and parenting that are based on my teaching and parenting experience, and NLP learning.