Some parents have challenges with their children. And, to tell the truth, some children have challenges with their parents. That’s tricky. We’ve heard the phrase….” You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”. It works both ways. Yep, we don’t choose a child with challenging behaviours, a baby who won’t sleep, a child with tantrums or a child with a chronic health condition or even genetic disease. We don’t choose a child who is well-behaved or a child with complex needs. That’s out of our control. Likewise, children can’t choose their parents or where they live. Whether your parents argue and shout, or whether there is violence or other abuse, whether your parents care about you or favour a sibling, whether your parents can afford to look after children, whether you live in a mansion or in a tent or on the streets. So many challenges!
Life is what it is, and we need to manage what is involved. We all have different personalities and different abilities to cope, different levels of resilience. What we all do have is the same physical structure of mind and body. The capacity to think, to feel and to act. We are also “beings” where living and surviving in our world involves “relationships”. That’s what is often tricky for people; interacting with others…..
As a counsellor and therapist, I am involved with many families, parents and children with all sorts of challenges. Often the key issues come down to communications and interaction. The key skills involved in communicating involve- looking and listening. Not everyone is comfortable with eye contact, or talking to others. Yet these are essential in our community. And many people forget that life is all about relationships; family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours, service providers, partners, children. Even with yourself!
The key to good and successful relationships involves a combination of things- time together and communication. Having just considered “communication”, and the involvement of observation, eye contact and listening, we also need to consider what is being communicated……emotions, challenges, successes, plans. But what about the care and consideration for others? The respect…..It’s not that simple really. Even time together is complex. What are we doing together? Focussed on each other or on something else? Doing things together or doing things separately? Is there enjoyment or relaxation? Is there a connection and togetherness?
In any family, there is the parent and parents. In a couple, they need to be able to communicate and collaborate on parenting. But they also need to be able to have their own needs met as well as a role model a range of values including intimacy and other communication skills. As children, we learn about love, care, emotions and many other things in our first attachment relationships. In fact, these experiences can continue to impact on us as adults.
Many parents are in their own world. The importance of work, or of meeting physical needs such as exercise can sometimes come before interactions with children. I’ve spoken with mothers where the father is off to work before the children wake up and home after the children are in bed. I’ve worked with families where both parents work and the children spend all day in daycare or out of home care. Families where the television is on all the time and family members don’t engage in much conversation at all. Think about the children in these situations……how can they have positive and beneficial relationships with that parent, or both parents? I am not here with judgement or blame, just seeking to raise awareness and provide information. Seeking to encourage you, if you are a parent, to consider your personal situation and whether there is anything that could change, or that should change.
In thinking about family, whatever structure that is…..single parent or couple, separated and in conflict, or happily separated- if there are positive connections and good communications, then the relationship should be strong. Consider the time you spend with your partner and how that is? Consider the time you spend with your child -the together time and the interacting time. Some parents experience many challenges with the child or children. This can be the result of different personalities, stress or parenting styles. It can also be the result of distress, busy lives or mental health challenges. Some parents, just don’t “know how to parent”, simply because of their own experiences as children. These days however, there are many ways to seek advice, support or assistance.
I’d like to suggest some things that can assist in improving parent/child relationships:
1. Plan some quiet interactive activities together.
2. Try using more eye contact with your child
3. When speaking with your child, crouch down to their level
4. Go outside for a walk together with a goal to discover something’s?
5. Go to a park and be active together -kicking a ball or playing chasey.
6. Read a story together
7. Sit at the table and eat together with no distractions.
I look forward to hearing how this goes for you. Sometimes just one or two small changes can have a significant impact. See what you can do today that might improve a relationship in your life:-)
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