Parenting is an emotional rollercoaster that gives you the highs and the lows. You feel the joy and you also feel disappointed, angry, and in some cases, frustrated. The challenges that being a parent bring are tough to deal with, but the way to a healthy parent-child relationship is to first acknowledge that the issues exist and then address them. When dealing with these problems, it’s important for the parent to not just think about their child, but also themselves.
We speak to two leading counsellors about some parenting challenges and ways to deal with them.
Parental ambivalence: The rollercoaster of emotions that a parent feels can make you feel multiple emotions at the same time. You could move heaven and earth to bring a smile to the face of your little one and yet feel it’s a burden to be constantly doing so. The first step for parents to resolve any issue is to understand that they do not need to be the perfect parent. If parents feel overwhelmed by the endless number of things they need to do to be the ideal one, talking to a family member or other parents will do them good. And if nothing helps calm them down or if they feel that way too often, professional help is advised.
Personality identity: Parents often lose their individuality in the process of raising their child. They feel that their existence is solely dependent on and defined by the child. Finding time for themselves is a major challenge that most parents face. And it isn’t surprising to see many feel torn between meeting their needs and those of their children. In such cases, parents need to recognise that nurturing their own well-being enhances their ability to be an effective caregiver. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Only when they are healthy, physically and mentally, can they nurture their kids better. Simple ways to achieve this is by establishing boundaries with the children and indulging in a hobby. It's also important to have open and honest communication with all parties involved and building a support system so that you can take time out for yourself now and then. Take a day out to do the things you want to do. Let your kids be under the supervision of an adult that you trust.
Burnout: Being a parent is like being a superhero 24*7. Thus, more often than not, parents feel drained (emotionally, mentally, physically), detached, and unfulfilling. New parents are usually conditioned to think they must put the child’s needs above theirs, and this very practice, along with the parent’s personal issues can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Parents need to take care of themselves (without feeling guilty) and understand that they’re not robots. A good place to start is by setting realistic expectations and delegating tasks to family members and having them help you. Remember, you don’t have to be the perfect parent, decent is good enough.
How to say no to the child: You don’t want to pamper and spoil your child, yet at the same time you don’t want them to feel you’re not around for them. And it's important for even parents to learn to say 'no' or 'later' when the child demands their time and attention. Parents can let children know that they will get what they want after you get what you want. Let them feel in charge, but put the rules down.
Dealing with what people have to say about your parenting style: What people say and expect of you can play on one’s mind. Shutting out the noise is a task easier said than done. Add to that, when one becomes a parent, society tends to dump a host of unrealistic expectations on them. One can feel constant judgment and criticism for every single decision they take and eventually it all gets overwhelming. It’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, nobody understands your journey better than you.
Not spending enough time with the child: In the fast-paced world, parents struggle to juggle multiple responsibilities and often end up spending less time with children. The best way to do this is to have a routine and schedule implemented into the child’s life. With these established set patterns, both parent and child know how their day will go and how much time they will spend with each other. Having planned activities in the form of daily rituals is a great way to ensure parents spend quality time with their kids. It could be reading them a bedtime story, tucking them into bed or having dinner together. These small things, in the form of exclusive one-on-one time, make a big difference in the long run.
Parents must incorporate the child into their daily activities
The child can be assigned age-appropriate tasks and responsibilities, which give a chance to connect and have the parent and kid spend time together. Parents can talk to their child about what’s happening in their lives in engaging style. There needs to be a structure to the time spent with your child as well as in the conversations that you’re having with them.
Whatever you do, remember that you’re giving your best shot. It’s more important to be a good parent and do what you’re doing right than trying to be a perfect parent.
Inputs by Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy, Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai