Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Most of us parents have a deep desire to like and understand our children, as well as provide for them and keep them safe. Unfortunately, the daily realities of parenting can leave us feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or helpless, and we may end up reacting in ways we don’t like or want. We become the stressed out mum who gets frustrated when the kids won't brush their teeth. Or the overworked dad who shouts at the kids to be quiet when they're playing. We may fight with our partner, then worry the children are arguing more with each other. Things can get messy in families, and sometimes these difficulties can intensify in what seems like no time at all.
One of the biggest challenges at these times is maintaining clarity. It’s really hard to see what’s going on, because everything feels hard, and there are so many emotions infusing each exchange. A child’s curt reply can feel loaded with resentment and giving a simple instruction can become an accusation of wilful disobedience. But hardest of all, once the initial emotions have died down, us parents are often left with an overwhelming feeling of guilt or shame that we somehow haven’t got it right.
In fact, many parents come to counselling having recognised that their reactions are out of proportion or are a kind of pressure relief, and they’re looking to understand what they’re doing and exploring what else is possible. This is a great starting point for therapy, as it begins with the (rightful) belief that there is something that can be done, that you the parent/client have the power to do things differently.
In a session, you might start describing those annoying behaviours, which could lead us to what was expected of you as a child. Or else the frustrations of not being listened to by your kids could lead to recognising you feel unheard by your partner. Maybe you explore the friction you feel when your partner disagrees with your decisions, and you realise how your desire to please them conflicts with your deep conviction that a particular choice is the right way to go.
Counselling begins with following the tension, naming it, identifying what causes it, and recognising when the cause is actually something different to what you thought. It is in this clarity, this recognition and awareness, that you can start to make decisions again. By unearthing the real causes of your tension, you can start to respond appropriately to the day to day frustrations of parenting. Perhaps it is a relief to discover that most of the emotional challenges in your life are nothing to do with your children (or at least not entirely), and as you work through the frustrations in a safe and welcoming space outside your life, you can start to rebuild your relationship with your kids in a way that feels good to you all.
We offer subsidised and private counselling for parents available during term-time. Click here to find out more.