This article was originally posted October 20, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge
In my journey as a counselling professional, right between Employment Counsellor and Trauma Counsellor, I worked as a Family Counsellor. The work was incredibly challenging, as families bring many complex issues to the table. Each individual member has a unique background and personality, in addition to the issue which, as a family, they enter into counselling hoping to solve or diffuse or grow from. I was constantly aware of the incredible struggles families endure, and also the incredible love and commitment to each other.
That same commitment to each other was not always healthy, and that love not always enough to truly get to the root of the problem and move forward from it. The best predictor of success was when families were committed to making change work, and each family member was willing to take some degree of responsibility for the part in the change process. From my role as a Family Counsellor, research into family therapy, mindfulness training, and from everyday life with my own family, I began to realize a very important lesson: There are a great many books written and strategies devised (and even television shows!) teaching parents the “best” ways to deal with behaviour concerns and succeed in parenting. But, without the ability to “stick to it”, no matter what strategy or philosophy one adheres to, it will not work. Armed with this knowledge, my work with families shifted focus. I began to assist parents in learning how to stay grounded and in the moment, which ultimately enabled them to carry out their chosen parenting strategy with success.
For example, if anger was the typical pattern of parental behaviour that a family wanted to change, and after the family had successfully acquired the appropriate anger management tools, work would focus on assisting the parents to learn strategies to stay grounded and mindful. This enabled them to remain calm when dealing with difficult behaviours in their children, thus enabling them to successfully parent their children without damaging self-esteem etc. by yelling or uttering words in anger.
I am not discounting the serious nature of some family problems, individual experiences, or childhood/teenage behaviour issues. What I am saying is that with the right tools in your tool belt, difficulties can seem more manageable. And with the right strategies to stay grounded and in the moment with your child, the more likely you will be to remember to apply those tools appropriately and successfully.
And so, these articles grow out of my belief that in order succeed at parenting (raising happy, well-adjusted children), we need to be grounded and in the moment with them. Check out the posted ideas and try them out with your kids. Remember, new skills take time to master, so be patient with yourself as you practice the ideas and do give yourself time to practice them!
Susan Guttridge is a trauma-informed Master level Counsellor with the clinical designation of Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCPA). She has 20+ years experience providing individual and group therapy.