My child's first day of High School made me feel like an awkward teenager again and why I'm at peace with the discomfort.
My child started secondary school. All Summer there's been excitement and countdowns, ending with the normal butterflies in the stomach in the final days of the holidays, before the big moment arrived. I'd prepared her, ironed her uniform, filled her shiny new pencil case with biros and batted away most 'what if' questions like a seasoned parenting pro. But what I wasn't prepared for, was the rearing of all my teenage high school trauma. It hit me out of the blue when tears fell from eyes after a long, overwhelming first day. What she experienced in those first 'rabbit in the headlights' days was normal. No one was mean to her. Nothing terrible happened. She even enjoyed much of it. Her highly sensitive soul simply needed to release built up emotions and process so much change in this huge milestone moment. But suddenly, whilst holding her, I stepped into the shoes of my awkward tween self and was flooded with feelings of self doubt, intense self consciousness and high anxiety. I remember the fear like it was yesterday and my heart broke. I thought it was for her. It wasn't. My heart broke for my teenage self.
To be at our best for our children, and support their experiences through their lens takes intuitive reflection and a level of self awareness. When we become emotionally reactive to our children's experiences it's helpful to ask ourselves why and be brave enough to go there. Even just being aware of why is an important and substantial step in itself. So, as I coach her through this challenging rite of passage, I'm also coaching my inner teenage self. These are some of the steps I'm taking:
As Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, do better." So it's OK. My early secondary journey felt difficult, but I'm at peace with that because the journey led to here. Today, where I'm parenting differently for my daughter. Where I've been guiding and teaching her for years so that she is far braver, stronger and more resilient than I was at this point in my own life. It led to now, where we're parenting a generation that will know themselves and what to do when challenges arise.
Emotion coaching is process by which we can support our child's emotional intelligence. It's a fabulous parenting tool with proven benefits for emotional health.
Emotion Coaching isn't magic wand! It takes time to see the results and effort from parents to implement. However, working on our personal development and growing as a parent so that we can become our children's emotion coaches brings huge positive outcomes for the whole family. Not only do we heal and become happier, but our children are more likely to be successful, resilient and emotionally intelligent individuals. Furthermore, our connection with our children is stronger and our relationships benefits.
If you find this is the case, you can choose to work on responding over reaction and learn to be an active listener. It's perfectly OK to find this hard because you probably weren't taught how when you were a child! If you're interested in learning more you can discover how to implement emotion coaching in more detail through our downloadable 35 page Emotion Coaching Parenting Workbook, which you can find in the For Mama shop.
What if the fear of your child lacking self-esteem is leading you to a response that tries to make your child feel OK by telling them they’ve done well, rather than guiding them to discover and believe that themselves? A response that helps you feel better in the moment but doesn’t build foundations of resilience for your child.
It’s easily done. And it ‘feels’ like the right response in the moment. But what if I told you that you didn’t always have to panic respond with a, “but that’s brilliant, darling” when your child clearly doesn’t think it is? How would that feel? Liberating?
We need to accept as mothers, that there will be times our children lack confidence in themselves and that our job is to teach them resilience skills and guide them, not fix it for them. To do this we need to free ourselves from using our children’s emotional ups and downs as a measure of how good a job we are doing. A good mother and a child with emotional struggles are not mutually exclusive. When we instinctively react to smooth the moment over, we're actually reacting to soothe ourselves under the illusion we're helping our children. Like a mama bear in protect mode, hearing negative words that sound destructive and damaging coming from the mouth of someone we love more than life itself, feels like facing our worst nightmares. It hurts.
Taking a moment to read the situation is a skill, but one we can all learn. And those moments of pause can reduce our parenting anxiety and support our child at the same time. Let me tell you what I mean ...
For a long time dads were a distant figure for children, even when living in the same home. A father was somebody who was out all day working and was to be left to rest on their return. A passive parent, leaving raising children to the mother, unless punishment was deemed necessary. Their traditional role was 'breadwinner', providing financially for the family. But the passing of time has seen change. The modern family looks different these days, with a variety of family set ups and mothers often contributing in a significant way financially. Research on child development and in the field of psychology has given us an emerging picture on parenting approaches and the true impact fathers have on children, from the quality of their sperm to the age of 18.
Research is changing the perception of fatherhood. Conscious parents are redefining the role of dad. Because the studies are clearly suggesting that when it comes to emotional health in children dads do matter.
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.