When we have children we want to be everything they ever need. We want to be there for them when they fall, when they struggle and fail. We want to make the world a safe place for them and we want to make them happy. When they are upset, we feel their pain and when they're angry we feel their sense of injustice or frustration.
These last two years have created huge unprecedented pressure on parents because of the uncertainty, fear and lack of control. Every family has been affected and now with the situation in Ukraine it seems our lives will never be the same again as a new wave of uncertainty builds. What do we tell them? How do we protect them? How can we make things right for our family?
We are now in unprecedented times of stress and we have no control over it. We have very limited power to make the world a safer place for them. To some extent our control ends the moment they leave the house. What we can do though is to build their resilience from the earliest opportunity.
When we take on responsibility for our children's happiness, that's huge and it's worrying for kids when they see how you worry when they are struggling. They need you to be there for them of course but also for you to trust that they can cope, they have the answers and can build resilience and confidence through taking on new challenges out of their comfort zone.
It is important for children to take responsibility for their own happiness. Control what they can control which is their own state. You cannot control or manage their state. It might have been possible when they were younger but as they become more independent you have to leave them to 'fight their own battles' and trust that they can do this without you. They just need to know you are there if they do need you.
Remember too that you cannot pour from an empty vessel. We often hear the expression that we should put on our own oxygen mask before seeing to the children and every time I hear that on a plane, I think that is such a difficult concept because it is completely counter-intuitive for a mother, isn't it? Yet, when we are feeling drained and tired, worrying about work, maybe our relationship or another of our children, a parent maybe or a friend, how can we really be there for the child who needs us?
Brene Brown speaks a lot about vulnerability and the strength of being vulnerable and open about the things we struggle with. Her TED talk is available on You Tube in various versions. I listened to the story of Joe Wicks's childhood yesterday and he visits centres where parents who suffer with mental health problems attend with their kids and work through their feelings so that children can understand better and they're helped by a support team. Joe Wicks praises this scheme because he says that children know when we are suffering and struggling ourselves and when we try to contain it and put on a brave face, pretend everything is OK, they feel doubly betrayed.
Today lots of families experience mental health problems in silence despite children and teens awareness having increased hugely to the extent that mums calling me to book appointments for their child tell me that it was them who had asked to see someone. This rarely happened before the pandemic. So much has changed and we need to change with it. We need to open up and share our own inability to be the fixer of all problems, It was fine when the problems were small ones but today what teens in particular are faced with, is often out of our area of expertise. Asking for help for yourself in order for you to be strong for your family, is a brave and wonderful thing to do.
I offer. a free 30 minute call and I can usually fit in an appointment within the week. Get in touch and share your vulnerability with someone who has been through lots of trials as a parent and still has to ask for help herself. We all do. All therapists have supervisors and attend regular therapy themselves. No- one is Superwoman ..............except Superwoman and she is fictional I assure you.