Our role with our children: a reflection on self-care

Counsellor William Hayman gives some advice to help parents quell doubts and fears they might unnecessarily have about raising their offspring
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It’s more than OK to experience doubts and even fear when it comes to raising our children.  We struggle not only against today’s fast-paced societal changes and demands but also with our own unresolved issues and insecurities. 

Each parenting phase reels in new considerations and difficulties, potential reminders of how we interpret our own childhood.  We may have questions and concerns; some founded in reason and experience, while others unfounded in doubt, but still eliciting anxiety and distress. 

Despite abundant reflection, we may struggle to understand our own sense of self and to adjust to the various challenges and the innate obligation to put our children first. 

Yet, how we see ourselves in this role is of paramount importance as it goes hand in hand with how we make sense of our own childhood experiences. This, in turn, affects how we parent our children. 

Doubts, fears and insecurities are neither the only elements pertaining to this role, nor the most important. They are each overshadowed by opportunity! 

As parents and guardians, we are given a space to grow as individuals daily, as we are nudged back towards an intimate parent-child relationship. 

Ultimately, our children have the advantage of having us. Only we can offer the empathic understanding that we, as children, may have craved for − an understanding which our children may surely benefit from. 

Indeed, the same past difficulties we might have experienced as children are not to be denied or suppressed. Making sense of those challenging experiences is necessary in order to allow us to process them, understand them and avoid projecting and recreating the same negative interactions with our own children. 

However, being there for our children in the best shape and form possible does not mean we should forget ourselves or our needs in the process.

It is ok to make mistakes

We need to often remind ourselves that time, experience and maturity constantly play a role in our growth. It is ok to make mistakes, as these are only opportunities for further growth.  After all, no child was ever born with a manual. There are no qualities that we innately lack, but qualities we have to aspire to. 

Making sense of life as parents or guardians can free us from patterns of the past that imprison us in the present. Understanding more about ourselves can help us build a more effective and enjoyable relationship with those around us, something which we well deserve.  We are not our parents or guardians.  We are we. 

The present context provides us with tools which previous generations did not have nor would have even considered or indeed fathomed, such as therapy, parental skills courses and online resources. 

“There are no qualities that we innately lack, but qualities we have to aspire to”

Our role with our children does not only entail active play and listening, guidance and love, but an obligation towards our own self-care.  We cannot be there for others if we are not there for ourselves. 

Pre-existing troubles, unresolved issues and doubts do not disappear the moment we take on a parental role.  They do not only remain, but also amplify, unless processed and understood.  This stands as more reason to address ourselves and our needs proactively and not reactively which, in turn, profoundly impacts not only the relationship we share with those we love, and how it is perceived, but also the one with ourselves and our inner child. 

We do not need to step back from our thoughts any longer, nor do we have to minimise our concerns and pain.  We can reach out for help.

William Hayman is a counsellor and vice president of the Malta Association for the Counselling Profession.

If you’re interested in learning more about the counselling profession, or would like additional information on mental health and self-care, visit www.macpmalta.org, e-mail info@macpmalta.org or visit the MACP’s Facebook page.

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