Healthy Parents = Healthy Kids
Contributed by Kevin Libster, LPCC
There are no perfect parents, just parents with perfect intentions. No job is as important, stressful, or demanding as the job of being a parent. No job is as rewarding either. Regardless of how good a parent you think you are, there are times where all parents question themselves and don’t feel up to the task. Not only is this normal, it is also healthy.
Where does all this stress and pressure come from? We all want what is best for our children. Naturally, we feel our parenting will directly impact our child’s overall success or lack thereof. Our children’s intelligence, emotional stability, social skills, athletic skills, and pretty much everything we think of are impacted by, guess who, the parents. Talk about pressure! While some of this is true, it is also blown out of proportion. “Good” parents can have “bad” kids, and “bad” parents can raise good kids. Peers, social media, society, DNA, teachers, and a variety of factors we cannot control impact our children, not just parents. There is no “right” way to parent a child. But there are things which are important to being a healthy parent. Being too stressed about parenting can cause a parent to lose sight of the bigger picture and not be the healthiest person they can be.
So what is the bigger picture and what does a healthy parent look like? The big picture answer is that it is about meeting a child’s needs. A healthy parent ensures they meet these needs. What are these needs?
A child’s needs a range from our basic needs such as food, water, shelter; to love, a sense of safety, attention, trust and someone to teach, guide, and support. To ensure that we meet these needs, parents have to be in control of their emotions and manage their own feelings. This is called caregiver affect management. Parents have the ability to role-model for their children the appropriate ways to express feelings of love, happiness, sadness, and even anger. Providing our own self-care ensures we are coping and expressing our own feelings appropriately. This helps to role model appropriate ways to express and cope with feelings. Recognizing we need breaks and time away is beneficial for both children and their parents. Once parents are able to manage their own emotions they are better equipped to support their children’s emotional needs. Parents also need to be attuned to how their children are feeling. Parents can learn to be “feelings detectives” in an attempt to discover how their children are feeling. With this parents can then assist them in coping with these feelings, followed by role-modeling for them healthy ways to express these emotions. Having a consistent response is vital during this process. Children perform best when they understand expectations. Being consistent with expectations and responses to behaviors allow children the opportunity to grow from their mistakes. Establishing structure with routines and rituals will establish appropriate patterns of behaviors and responses.
Parents don’t have all the answers and don’t always make the right choices. And guess what? That’s actually a good thing. Making mistakes, losing your cool with your child, or any other failures are bound to happen. When these instances occur, it is a great learning experience for you and your child. This creates a perfect opportunity to teach and role model how to apologize, manage anger, learn from mistakes, and accept our own faults.