A new baby brings new hope. As we cuddle our new little baby, our thoughts might wander and we imagine the endless possibilities stretching before this child; we imagine the moments of joy and fun we will share with them. While the reality of parenting is often full of moments of pure joy, it can also be one of the most challenging things that we will ever do.
If your own parents were supportive and kind and if you lived in a secure home with healthy relationships, you will likely have a strong basis for raising your own children. If, however, you grew up in difficult circumstances with lots of challenges and conflict, this may be less clear. You will be as capable as any parent of loving your child, but you might not have as clear an idea of how to manage conflict and how to deal with difficult emotions. When your child is frustrated, angry or upset, it may be more difficult to stay calm and respond gently and positively.
The good news, however, is that every parent can learn to manage their own emotions, support their child to manager theirs and develop loving, positive relationships, although it does take some time and effort. Below are a few things to consider if you find yourself in this situation.
- Recognise and acknowledge it. Try to find the time and space to reflect on how you react in certain situations and why that might be. For example, if your child becomes very angry because they are not allowed a certain snack and they start to throw things, how does this make you feel? Does it cause you to panic and get very angry yourself? Are you tempted to shout at your child or just leave them in their anger? These are difficult circumstances for any parent, but if you find your child’s behaviour overwhelming and if you are not able to cope, it may be a signal that you are reacting not only to your child’s behaviour but to something that has happened to you.
- Forgive Yourself. No parent gets it right all of the time. If you made a mistake, talk to your child about it and apologise. Let them know that you will try to act differently next time. Apologising to your child isn’t a sign of weakness; it lets them know that you’re human and make mistakes and that you are committed to the relationship
- Reach Out. All parents need support. If you are trying to manage difficulties from your own past, you may need some extra support. Parent and toddler groups can be great ways of meeting other parents and getting some informal support. You may also want to speak to a health care professional (GP, Public Health Nurse) and let them know what you are struggling with and see if they can refer you for supports such as counselling
- Find Moments of Enjoyment. Whatever the age of your child and whatever issues you may be dealing with, try to find time every day to enjoy your child. This may be cuddling in to watch a programme together; taking the dog for a walk; talking about a happy holiday or day out you had; or just chatting about something that happened that day.
If you would like more information on available services and supports, please see www.loveparenting.ie.