The follow article was written by Palmeira Practice counsellor Jenny Warwick.
Parenting is one of the most important jobs any of us will ever do and yet, despite libraries full of books on the subject, many feel that they are not equipped to do it well. This feeling can become more pronounced as your child enters adolescence.
Whilst parenting can be hugely rewarding it can also be very challenging. Parents are not only involved in tending to the daily and differing needs of a baby, child or adolescent, they are also responsible for ensuring that their children develop the skills they need to function appropriately: both practically and socially. As a parent you must protect, seek help for medical or behavioural concerns, listen to your children, spend time with them, provide affection, be consistent, and adapt as they age. All this takes place whilst taking into consideration each individual child’s unique personality.
No wonder, then, that parenting can become overwhelming – particularly so when there are other issues at play within the family such as specific, challenging situations or where there are behavioural concerns. This is where support from a non-judgemental and independent professional can help.
Why see a counsellor for parenting?
There are plenty of reasons why a parent might seek counselling to provide support. Here are a just few common situations...
- You may be facing a specific parenting challenge, for example, around your child’s mental health concern or behavioural issue. Whilst they may well be receiving support, the parents own feelings and emotions may be left unaddressed which may impact the rest of the family’s wellbeing.
- You may have your own mental health or other issues that impact on your ability to parent.
- Becoming a parent can have a major impact on your relationship as a couple both positive and negative, and can be a contributing factor to relationship distress.
- Family networks are becoming smaller than they used to be and parenting can be a lonely job. This feeling of isolation can be even more pronounced when sole parenting.
- Seeing a counsellor is not only for parents who feel their family is in crisis or their child is acting out in extreme ways, however, and many parents may find it helpful to speak to someone around parenting in general.
- Speaking to a counsellor about parenting can help to improve communication and enhance relationships both in and out of the family. Positive and consistent communication is key for the child to understand what is expected of them. Relationship counselling may also help to strengthen parenting skills.
What will a counsellor talk about with a parent?
Counselling around parenting issues is focussed on problem-solving and learning new skills – we are looking to change what is going on now and how you would like your family relationships to look in the future, rather than lingering on exploring the past. A counsellor will, however, explore family backgrounds to gain an insight into significant events, patterns, similarities and differences in the family that you grew up in.
A counsellor look at your strengths as a parent (because you are doing plenty right) and identify the areas and behaviours that you find more of a challenge.
A counsellor will also explore personality differences within your family and how these shape your relationships.
Additionally, it is important to look at your wellbeing and self-care strategies; if you are only focussed on other people in the family and not looking after yourself you will not be best placed to look after others in your family. It is also important to remember that no one gets parenting right all the time so be kind to yourself.