As a mother of two young children I struggle to give them my undivided attention where everything else seems to take my attention away from them. I notice that it is not just me who is having a tough time but parents around me are also as distracted. It is not just working parents; but also parents that are primary caregivers, taking care of children at home for the entire day, who are going through such turmoil.
Let us start with self. “Learning to say no” and “Care for self” are very important in parenting. These remind us that parenting is not an easy job and as a parent, even though we need to take care of others, we need to put ourselves first. We cannot fill another cup from an empty cup! By setting healthy boundaries we are teaching our children to do so when they grow up. If we can give ourselves some time to relax and do what we need to do for ourselves we will have energy and time to give without harbouring negative feelings for the rest of the family. By taking time off for ourselves, even if it is just half an hour a day, we are not being selfish but we are helping ourselves to be a better parent. We shouldn’t feel guilty about doing things for our own good.
Another important thing to remember is to stop ourselves from worrying about every consequence! I think nearly every parent goes through this at some stage. We all do things and then worry about the after effect that the situation will have on our child and also about the worst consequence that it can lead to. For example “What if I don’t spend time with my child now, will he/she become an antisocial person?” This makes us feel guilty and we start blaming ourselves more than ever before. It does not help in any positive way whatsoever! I personally go through this a lot. Once in a while we need reminders that it will all work out in the end and that we are doing the best we can. With this comes the concept of modelling positive thoughts and positive talk. In a way, making positive talk a habit helps with talking ourselves out of the guilt factor too!
The most important points for me, though, are accepting yourself and the emotions of both yourself as well as your child’s. I think it is extremely important to accept oneself first. Only when that happens we can handle our emotions calmly and accept our child’s emotions. We need to be able to get rid of all the “I can’t do it” and “I am not good enough” thoughts. They can bring us down and bring down the child too in the process. We have to understand that it is normal to cry, feel angry or sad, for us as well as the child. I have to work a lot on this as I have a lot of baggage from my own childhood which I need to unpack before I learn to understand my child’s emotions. It is important for me to see to it that my child doesn’t grow up with the same baggage as I did.
We all try and compare our child to the rest of the world and wonder why our child is not like somebody else’s child who will eat what is served on their plate without complaining or a child that will do all the homework by herself and so on. Half the problem is solved when we just accept the child that we have as he or she is. Once we accept what is normal then we can work on other things. It is not as frustrating as before anymore. We know what we have and we are ready to work with it.
We have always been told that children follow what they see and not what they hear. I think we all need a reminder about that every now and then. When we know someone is watching we tend to behave as a better role model. Being mindful and paying attention is quite important and we have to learn to do it without jumping to conclusions or trying to avoid the unpleasantness sometimes. This will help us to understand what the child is trying to communicate.
We have to learn not to rush, find time to be unplugged every day and under schedule the children. We try to fit everything into our children’s childhood so that they do not fall behind in the rat race. We also need to have hands free time to connect to the family every day. Also, lesser the toys for the children the better it is. It brings out their creativity and connectivity with the world around them.
On the whole it is not about just connecting with our children but it reminds us to connect with our inner self too which is important to become a focussed parent.