Better Than Your Parents?
By Esther Goldstein
The line is thin.
The line of appreciating your parents for who they are and who they were as they raised you, while birthing your own inner voice of the kind of parent you want to be for your children.
The reason the line is thin is because, I humbly believe that there is a balance that we need to be cognizant of. Our parents have their stories and so do their parents. We have our hopes, dreams and aspirations as did they. I have never met a parent who hasn't tried their best. Some have done a fine job and others struggled wildly.
You may have had wonderful connections and great years or you may have had years streaked with sadness, loneliness and confusion. You may have gone through a blend of experiences where you felt important, seen and understood and at other times wondered about your value, if you're allowed to speak up or if anyone noticed you.
Every family has their stories.
Stories of joy, and stories of loss, grief and transitions. Regardless where you are coming from, I'm certain you have opinions about how you want to do this parenting thing right.
You want to know you're doing your best for your children.
Our job is to learn from what felt right, and implement those aspects. As well, we can learn, integrate new concepts and improve ourselves so we can show up in the best ways for our children. Now, heres the thing. I want you to be honest with yourself about your identity as a parent. Not as a child, but as a mom or dad who is raising a child. Let's help you parent as mindfully as possible.
Each one of us carries a narrative.
A story we tell ourselves about the person we are. This narrative is made up of the good times, positive experiences as well as some of wounding, upsetting experiences. Some have gone through the unintentional wounds of life that are unavoidable and others have been intentionally hurt by people who have inflicted harm due to their own inner demons.
Survivors of trauma, loss or neglect often have scars, and when offered the opportunity to heal, are incredibly resourceful in moving forward, rebuilding a sense of self and creating lives of beauty and meaning. Regardless of history, every individual can gain from the occasional parenting book and tips in understanding they way their families function so they can show up optimally.
Since there's no such thing as having a perfectly balanced, 100% attuned home environment and community life, we've all got our blind spots to look at. One of my greatest passions is in helping parents notice if they may be (unconsciously) recreating an old dynamics and getting stuck in the past instead of freshly stepping into the possibilities that lie ahead in their present life.
Relationships, and especially parenting, has this interesting way of bringing unresolved issues to the surface.
I see this as a gentle reminder to offer healing, insight and wisdom for the present and future you currently have the opportunity to create.
Take a moment and think about the following.
- Notice yourself talking, behaving or engaging with others in a way that is similar to one of your parents?
- Find words tumbling out of your mouth that you know are fearful to children but you can't seem to stop them?
- Take a passive stance when faced with a tricky dynamic in fear of doing the wrong thing?
- Have strict limits and helicopter your kids out of fear that they wont be ok?
- Give your child limitless permissions, without necessary boundaries, as you want to give your child freedom you never got?
- Have an inner perfectionist that criticizes you when you've made a mistake?
- Get emotionally flooded and distance yourself from you children instead of offering warmth and security they're seeking?
- Over identify with your child's experience, comparing it to what you remember life was like for you as a child?
- Get caught in relationship dynamics that are unhelpful to you? Patterns such as:
- getting clingy, anxious, worried and preoccupied.
- shutting down, freezing and disconnecting from the world and those around you.
- getting enraged with anger and mistrust.
- fleeing from the moment, abandoning others by leaving or using alcohol, food or drugs to numb yourself.
Our family of origin is our first template for relationships so we often recreate some of the dynamics we experienced.
It's only natural to pick up on things from those around us. We undoubtedly carry traits from our families of origin; some will be helpful and great and others we may want to adapt and change. We all have blind spots of flaws or imperfections, and that's ok.
Your job, though, is to do your best to relate to your children from a place of healthy connectivity, and build solid foundational blocks instead of re-enacting old family dynamics.
You can highlight the parts that make you take a second glance and see what you can do to build a steady parenting relationship with your children
Here are some 10 tips on parenting with compassion and balance:
- Practice being. Our lives are made up of many small moments. Make space for those moments with presence.
- Manage your stress mindfully. Notice if there are specific things that trigger you into an old cycle: feeling overwhelm and then raising your voice, or feeling out of control when the juggle gets too much. Commit to daily practices of mindfulness to bring yourself back to baseline.
- Remember that your childhood was a completely different experience than what your children are going through. Be open, get curious and support them.
- Stop, pause and connect with your inner wisdom and with those around you. Don't make assumptions or project ideas. Pause. Connect.
- Breath. Slowing your breath as you inhale and exhale is scientifically proven to calm your mind, body and energy.
- Observe and Engage. Participate in whatever task you're doing, be it cooking dinner, homework, running errands or sharing about your day your children.
- Keep moving forward. Yes, when you notice you may have slipped into an unhelpful pattern, notice it, calm the inner critic and keep moving forward.
- Hold the "good enough" parent in mind. You do not need to be perfect. You need to be good enough. (more on that here).
- Respect your children's autonomy and sovereignty. Children flourish when we respect them and their budding wisdom.
- Commit to your own healing work. Engage in your own therapy for inner child work if you're needing additional support. As you heal your own wounds, you will show up with ease, confidence and the capacity to connect to your child(ren) in a whole new way.
Enjoy the journey! Parenting has many moments of sweet joy, opportunity and connection for yourself, your children and your family.
May you take the opportunity of building your own strong, heathy family patterns to heal old wounds and reclaim the power and love that family life is truly all about.
Esther Goldstein LCSW is psychotherapist and trauma specialist with a private practice in Cedarhurst, NY. Esther specializes in treating anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and parenting struggles with an emphasis on developing healthy attachments. Esther currently runs Dialectical Behavioral Therapy groups in her practice, and facilitates Trauma Informed Consultation groups for therapists committed to improving their trauma-informed practice. Esther's website is esthergoldsteinpsych.com
Frum Therapist exists as a website one can use to locate the top Frum professionals in your area or around the world. Learn more about the world of therapy, or sign up for ongoing education!