By Caitlin Winkler, PLPC
Parenting: It can be one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding jobs in the world. It can bring great pain and hardship, with many trials and tests of will. This job is not for the weak. Day in and day out you are on-the-clock. There are no vacations, no sick-leave, and not any paid time off. It is a 365/24/7 job.
We spend a lot of time preparing and working for our careers, but I believe one of the greatest tasks we have ever been assigned is raising our children. We are preparing the future teachers, doctors, farmers, and world-changers. Because it is such a demanding and tough thing, wouldn't it make sense to need some amount of preparation and training? Yet, most of us don't even have a class in high school that teaches basic child care.
We learn from our own personal experiences with our parents or caregivers growing up. We learn about what to do, and sometimes what not to do. We may end up believing that parenting will come naturally and easily.
But what if you do not have the "picture perfect child"? Does anyone? Children can be unpredictable and are ever-changing. They are constantly learning and growing, soaking up the world around them. Within two years they move from completely helpless to extremely strong-willed and independent. They begin to learn numbers and letters, silly songs and sayings, and before you know it, school begins. Their days are filled with learning and new friends, but occasionally this time can be extremely difficult.
The school age can bring its own set of challenges to many children. From social issues, to learning disorders, extracurricular activities, and homework, life can become stressful and chaotic. Many parents are ready for this stage to be over - and then it is. Children grow up to become young adults and perhaps start their career or continue their education in college. Once across that bridge, your title as parent still stands, but you move from being primary caretaker to helper and "sharer of wisdom".
With each stage your child goes through, you, as mom or dad, run a parallel course to theirs. You too are always changing and learning to adapt as a parent. Without significant and continued training for this monumental challenge, the day-in-day-out job can be overwhelmingly hard at times (though always worth it, am I right?). It is impossible to know how to handle all the situations that child rearing can throw your way.
If you can relate, you should know you are not alone. It can be easy to believe you are the only one who has ever been through this and you may think you need to know all the answers. But know this: You are NOT alone and you do NOT need to have it all figured out. Find someone, somewhere who can share in your challenges. As the saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child."
Be sure to find time to recharge and renew yourself. Many parents feel guilty for spending time away, but even if it is just a couple of hours, self-care can make a major difference in how you manage the stress and pressure of being a parent!
There are many resources out there such as kidshealth.org and pbs.org/parents with great strategies to utilize. Some also have free apps that are downloadable straight to your phone.
If you are looking for techniques to establish (or re-establish) your role as parent. Check out 1,2,3 Magic and Love and Logic, which have books, online pages, and videos.
If you believe professional help would benefit you or your child, please reach out! At Unlimited Potential, we understand these issues both on a professional and personal level. We would love to work with your family to help overcome the challenges in your world.
Caitlin Winkler is a Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor at Unlimited Potential Counseling & Education Center in O’Fallon. Caitlin iis under the clinical supervision of Emily Kircher-Morris, LPC (MO #2012026754).