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The purpose of this course is to help you become more aware of yourself as a parent. In this section, we are going to reflect on our own parenting. The aim is to help you, as a parent, to understand more clearly what you want your child to learn. The goal is to help you find effective ways to support your child’s learning and growth.

One size does not fit all

This course provides general perspectives on supportive parenting. These are approaches that have been proven to work in many families. At the same time, it’s important to remember that every child and parent is unique. Families also have different situations and cultures.

The problem with parenting advice is that it can sometimes make parents feel inadequate. Raising a child can also give rise to a wide range of debates and opinions on how it “should” be done. As a parent, you may get unsolicited advice from unexpected sources. It’s important that you have the time and the space to establish your own relationship with your child. Genuine curiosity and interest in how your child is doing and what they’re thinking and feeling will help.

Self-compassion in parenting

Parenthood brings joy, warm feelings and a sense of togetherness, but at the same time it can bring up difficult emotions and situations where you feel unsure of yourself. Parenting young children is about taking care of them, being present and meeting their needs. Young children who need constant presence and looking after can sometimes bring up feelings of irritation and boredom in a parent. Exhaustion is also a familiar feeling for many. When you’re very tired, it can be difficult to act in ways that match your values. Then, when you realise you have acted in a way you think is wrong, you may find yourself criticising yourself as a parent. If you want to explore the emotions parenthood can bring up in more depth, check out our free online course “Vanhemmuus täynnä tunteita” (“Parenting is full of emotions”, available in Finnish).

Every parent feels like a failure sometimes, for example when your child doesn’t behave or act as you would have wished. You grow into parenthood as your child grows, learning something new at each stage of your child’s life. A small amount of guilt is a good thing when there’s just enough of it to motivate you to change your behaviour. Sometimes, however, self-criticism can become too much, making it harder to cope as a parent. This can cause you to dwell on worries or perceived failures, resulting in a diminished ability to be present with your child. A parent also needs understanding and compassion.

When you’re having a hard time, pay attention to these three things:

  1. Try to be compassionate towards yourself. Don’t deny there are problems, but talk to yourself kindly. Notice when you’re having a hard time or feeling tired. Ask yourself, for example, what would you say to a friend in a similar situation? How would you comfort him or her? Say the same kind words to yourself and show yourself compassion.
  2. Don’t forget that all parents have to face challenging situations with their children and themselves from time to time. All parents feel tired sometimes, or as if they don’t know what to do. You are not alone in feeling like this.
  3. Learn to know yourself better. Be aware of what is happening inside you and around you. How do I feel? How does my child feel? What was I thinking when I said/did that? What is my child thinking? What am I afraid of? What is my child afraid of? What do I need? What does my child need?

Self-compassionate parenting will help you and your child to realise that perfection is not the goal, but good enough is enough. Correcting misunderstandings and reconnecting with your child is the most important thing you can do as a parent. Reconnection refers to the interaction between a parent and a child and their ability to communicate with each other. You can reconnect with your child when the situation or rush of emotion is over. Talk to your child about your observations about what just happened. Describe how you felt in the situation. Ask your child how he or she felt in the situation and what he or she thinks about it now. Help your child to express their feelings in words. If you yourself acted in a negative way, apologise. This is an important way of showing your child that everyone makes mistakes, but that apologising can make things right.

The significance of a parent’s past

A parent’s own experiences of relationships influence the way they act as a parent. In order for a parent to be a source of encouragement and security for their child, they need sufficient support and care themselves. If a parent hasn’t had enough support and security in their own childhood, they may find it more difficult to regulate their own emotions and support their child in regulating theirs. This makes it more difficult for the parent to access the role of a reassuring adult and to calm themselves down. In many cases, being aware of the negative and positive parenting practices you experienced in your own childhood helps you to make informed decisions and maybe to act differently from your own parents.

The Hyvä Kasvaa (Good Growth) survey gathered information on how it is possible for a parent to change the patterns of parenting they learned in their own childhood, through determination. “I have made a conscious choice to do things differently and the opposite way to how I was raised.”

Children can sometimes arouse strong emotions in their parent, such as worry, vulnerability and anger. When overwhelmed by difficult emotions, it’s difficult for a parent to make use of effective parenting advice. It’s important for parents to seek support themselves when they need it, so that they’re not completely alone in their parenting. Parents can find help from municipal family counselling centres, for example, or from free services provided by various organisations such as Väestöliitto (the Family Federation of Finland) and the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters.

Challenges and strengths of your own parenting

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses as human beings. This is also the case with parents. If something is working well, there’s no need to change it.

EXERCISE:

Take a moment to reflect on your own parenting style. What are you already doing well? What’s working? What are your strengths? What do you think you still need to practise and get better at in being a parent? What changes would you like to make?

Read also about our free online course “Vanhemmuus täynnä tunteita” (“Parenting is full of emotions”, available in Finnish).

Take a moment to reflect on your own parenting style. What are you already doing well? What’s working? What are your strengths? What do you think you still need to practise and get better at in being a parent? What changes would you like to make?

Read also about our free online course “Vanhemmuus täynnä tunteita” (“Parenting is full of emotions”, available in Finnish).

 

Sources:
https://psychcentral.com/blog/an-exercise-in-self-compassionate-parenting/ 
https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/21/the-newest-parenting-skill-self-compassion

 

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