Developing as a parent is a continuous process and I am by no means a perfect parent, none of us are, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be better than we are.
For me the early years of parenting flew by in a blur of sleepless nights, getting through each day and night of feeding, changing and napping. Then suddenly they are on the move and you have to keep an eye on their every move, dealing with the frustrations of not being able to communicate their feelings to you and endless trips to the park and soft play. Now that my children are 8, 10 and 13 you might think that life has got easier and in some respects it has a bit but parenting doesn't get easier as a whole, it just evolves and the challenges change.
Just over two years ago my eldest started secondary school and in a practical sense he became a lot more independent; walking to school with friends, doing homework without me sat by his side and entertainment became friends rather than family. However, emotionally his dependence on us, as his parents, increased 5 fold! There were many battles, crises to navigate and although I hate to admit it- a lot of shouting went on, from both sides.
I just knew there had to be a better way to navigate these ups and downs and reading the book 'Between- A guide for parents of 8-13 year olds' by Sarah Ockwell-Smith started my interest in understanding child social, biological and brain development, co-regulation strategies and breaking the cyle of parenting the way we were parented ourselves as children. In one section of the book there are questions to ask your child about how they percieve your parenting. I asked these questions of my eldest and he answered; which in itself was a success- opening up communication that had broken down over time. After answering the questions he asked me why I was asking him and I explained that I had been reading a book about how to be a better parent to him. His response melted my heart and will stay with me always- 'But you are a good parent already!' I told him, openly and honestly, that I was glad that he felt that way but that there is always room for improvement and we can always be better than we are.
From this point on I stopped beating myself up about the past and started focusing on the future relationship with my children. Through reading, trial, error and refinement I am starting to see the fruits of my labours. My children are willing to come to me with their worries, they know that when frustrations arise that I will hear them out and try to find a way forward that satisfies both parties and I am enjoying the 1-1 time I manage to carve out with each of them- finding time to value them as individuals. I am still on this is a journey and later this month I will be starting my training in mindfulness and co-regulation so that I can start to support other parents in understanding the principles and how to put them into practice with their little ones too. Once I have completed my training I am planning on starting some postnatal groups and 1-1 offerings to work with parents to find a way forward in their own families.
So, stay tuned more info to come!
*Picture of me and my littlest.