The Yin and Yang of Parenting

Sorry I've been MIA for a while.  As my clients know, I went off and had a baby!  I'm starting to get back into the swing of things, literally!  Today my husband and I went to the park with our two kiddos.  I was side lined with the new baby which allowed me the perfect opportunity to go into observation and reflection mode.  

I'll start with this: my husband and I are aligned parenting wise on the important stuff, but we still are quite different in our parenting styles.  Our differences really show while at the playground.  

Just yesterday I took my 3 year old daughter to the local playground, without my husband.  The local playground is designed for children 5-12 years old.  There are lots of big tall things to climb, fast slides, "big-kid" swings, balance beams, and the works.  It is important to me that my daughter learn caution and safety (while still having fun).  So when I'm with her I'm physically right there helping her find her footing, reminding her to be careful as she climbs outside of my comfort zone.  I tell her she'll be able to climb higher, jump further, and slide faster as she gets bigger and stronger.  She behaves accordingly.  She's reserved.  She wants my help doing everything.  She'll refuse to try things I know she's capable of, but you know what... she's careful!  

Back to today, while I was in observation mode, I see my husband and daughter playing, and I am amazed.  I see my daughter moving BY HERSELF from one wiggly, dangling pod to another and another and another.  This is a play structure that just yesterday I had lifted her onto one by one.  My husband is right there, always one step ahead, providing enough presence to communicate safety, but enough distance to push my daughter to try new, harder things.  When she's made it across all the pods I hear her say big and loud "I DID IT!"  Then she moves on to the next big thing.  A windy, tall ladder.  She declares "I can do it by my own!" and then she does.  "Come on daddy, " she says, "be careful!" and he is and she is, and they did it over and over again.  

This is one of those times that my parenting yin and his parenting yang worked out well.  Our daughter has developed a sense of caution but also a sense of confidence and true strength.  

I have met many parents seeking help to become more aligned with their child's other parent (or the other way around), and in some circumstances it does matter that parents be aligned.  However, often times our parenting differences provide a sense of balance in how our kids approach and conquer the big wide world around them.      

Trying To Get It Right

Over the weekend I had some friends from out of town visit.  We got together for lunch one day with many of our mutual friends that live in the area.  My two and half year old, who is usually a charmer in small groups, was very nervous with so many adults around with whom she isn't familiar.  She whined, and cried a little.  She was clingy, and didn't want to leave my side.  She didn't want to play with the toys we had brought to distract her, and the only thing that seemed to help was watching her favorite show on the iPhone.  

I was thinking about her behavior later.  I was at first frustrated, but as I followed my thoughts I came away with more respect and empathy for my daughter, and some thoughts about maintaining a little grace with her when situations like this arise.  

I realized that in that moment she was feeling shy, nervous, embarrassed, and unsure of herself.  Being so young she didn't have the skills to maneuver this complex social situation without my help and understanding.  Clinging to me was really her best coping skill and defense.  Of course, over time I'd like for her to be better at self soothing and distraction, but that isn't going to happen over night.  

I was surprised (in the moment) that her toys (a doll and book) weren't more comforting and distracting to her.  However, in hindsight, I see that children only play when they are free of distress.  Play is the luxury of a relaxed mind.  

Watching her favorite show on the iPhone, although not something I want her to rely on always, was one of the few things at my disposal that carried a strong enough motivation to allow her mind to be distracted.

So with these new epiphanies in mind and empathy for my daughters experience here is what I wish I had done:

--I wish I had not been blinded by my wish for her to be on her best behavior for my sake (my reputation).

--I wish I had allowed her a few minutes of comfort from me where I validated her fears in the situation and offered her assurance that everything was going to be ok.

--I wish I'd have been more patient.

--I wish that I had been able to help her soothe in a way that allowed her mind to relax.  

--I wish that I had come into the situation with more age appropriate (and individualized) expectations. 

Being a parent is hard.  I think  reflection may be my very best "tool" if I am to get it right next time.  

Upcoming and Ongoing Groups and Classes

I am happy to report that I currently offer three groups/classes.  Groups are a great way to have a therapeutic experience while learning new information and getting support from other people in similar situations...AND at a much reduced rate than traditional therapy or counseling.  

All three of these courses focus on parenting and learning more about children's emotional development.  

In the Co-Parenting Group you will gain better skills at communicating over stressful parent related conflicts.  Connect with other adults in similar parenting situations, which in my experience, provides for a safe and collaborative environment to tackle some of the less than desirable after effects of divorce.  We'll also do a number of activities to get in touch with our children's experiences of the divorce, and discuss ways to provide consistent, positive discipline to help them transition as best they can.  More Info:   

The Toddler Play Group (for you and your toddler) is hosted at yours or a friends home.  This is a very fun group that will engage both you and your toddler!  Be prepared to have fun and learn something!  The group begins with some singing, followed by a structured play activity and/or art, and ends with a goodbye song.  The educative portion for the parents happens throughout the fun.

The Positive Discipline Class is a collaborative environment for parents of all kinds to come together to learn positive discipline techniques and strategies.  In this group parents will share about their particular situations, and the group will work together to come up with solutions and ideas.  This class is highly influenced by the book Positive Discipline and the course material was developed by Jane Nelson.  I am a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, meaning that I've had extra parent-education-training via Jane Nelson's program.


For more information on what other services I offer check out my "services page".


Co-Parenting Group Starting Soon

I'm currently recruiting clients to join a co-parenting group.  The group meets once a week for 8 weeks.  It is very affordable, just $25 per session ($200 total).  

It may be comforting to know that most children adapt quite quickly post parent split up if a couple of things are in place: 1.  Parents resolve any ongoing and persistent conflict between themselves.  2.  The children return to a consistent and predictable routine.  And 3.  They can maintain a healthy and happy relationship with each parent without interference from the other parent.  

Of course, there are many heartaches and unmet wishes a child of divorce may have.  Like they might hope their parents get back together.  This is very common, but this unmet wish is something they will understand with time.  It isn't something that they will carry with them forever.  Ongoing and persistent conflict, unpredictable parenting, and fear of ridicule or disappointing a parent has much further reaching consequences.  

This group is designed to help parents resolve ongoing conflict between each other that involves parenting matters, helps you get in touch with your child's experience, and introduces parenting strategies so that your child has as consistent and predictable a life as possible.  

If you're interested, or know someone that might be, give me a call or shoot me an email!  I also offer co-parenting sessions on an individual basis.