Parenting is hard. It’s also an incredibly beautiful gift and fills your life with a new sense of purpose, meaning and joy. Of course, everyone’s experience is different…every kid is different…every family is different.
Everyone, no matter how different our experiences may be, has good days and bad days. Sometimes those days run together and turn into a good season or an extra tough season in parenting. This post is for the mama (or dad) who is feeling stuck and beyond overwhelmed right now.
I have felt this way many times before and I want to share four things we begin to do when parenting is feeling overwhelming.
#1 – PRAYER
This might not resonate with you if you are not a Christian, but if you are…please let prayer be your first line of defense in all things. (I’m reminding myself of this, too, as I write this.)
Sometimes my instinct is to search for helpful articles or parenting books first, rather than bringing the concerns of my heart to the “throne of grace”. God is not a genie and praying for something does not mean you will get all that you ask for, but the Bible does tell us that through prayer “we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”-Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
While trying to get Adler ready for bed about a week ago, he kept whining and arguing (which had been going on all afternoon). He was exhausted and I was exhausted. I cried out to God right there in my boys’ bedroom, “Jesus, please help me. I need your help right now.” The Lord provided peace and patience for me in that moment and I was able to calmly get through bedtime without losing my cool with Adler.
When you feel at the end of your rope in parenting (or with anything in life), cry out to God. Tell God what’s on your heart and ask for help. If you think prayers need to be neat and tidy, then take some time to read through the Psalms. David’s prayers to God are messy, deeply emotional and raw.
#2 – Re-evaluate (What’s working? What’s not working?)
If your child is having behavioral issues, the root cause could be many things. It could be a developmental phase, something neurological or perhaps even something triggered by your child’s diet or lack of sleep. The last thing you might want to think is that you are part of the problem.
Even though it’s painful to admit, whenever we feel stuck in parenting, I find myself saying to Nick, “We probably need to figure out what aspect of this is being caused by us.” I can only assume that as the primary care providers, we are shaping our kids’ lives tremendously. If they are throwing tantrums left and right (for example), what is it I could be doing differently to help make this situation better?
These conversations usually lead us to re-evaluate what is currently working and what is currently not working in our approach to discipline, family routines, etc. It also has occasionally led us to my next point — seeking professional help.
#3 – Seek Professional Help
I had dinner with a friend recently and she shared about how she recently sought out an Occupational Therapist for her child. We currently are working with an OT as well, so it was fun to share some of the different strategies and supports we have both seen through working with an OT.
This is not the first time we have sought professional help in parenting. We have received a variety of professional supports both for us as parents and for our kids. Honestly, the first time you decide to seek therapy or some type of professional support can feel really heart wrenching. You might feel sad that something is wrong or troubling enough to need outside help, but I want to encourage you to try to re-frame your perspective.
I am passionate about fighting against the stigma around mental health issues. The fact that some people still hesitate to seek counseling actually kind of boggles my mind. Why do we think we can get through life without needing some extra guidance or support from time to time?
I urge you to consider seeking professional help if it’s even remotely something on your radar. Why? Because I’m of the opinion that the more proactive you are about behavioral (or any kind of health problem), the better your odds are of helping equip your child with the tools they need to thrive.
(PS If you do get your child into therapy, I also encourage you to treat those appointments the same as anything else on your calendar like swimming or piano lessons. If you act like their appointment or evaluation is a huge secret, you will give them reason to feel shame in needing some extra support and shame has never benefited anyone.)
“The culture of shame is driven by fear, blame, and disconnection, and it is often a powerful incubator for issues like perfectionism, stereotyping, gossiping, and addiction.”-Dr. Brené Brown
#4 – Lean into Community
This is the shortest point I have, but here we go: be vulnerable. Share with your closest friends or family how you are struggling. When someone asks how you are doing, there is your opportunity to actually share what’s going on with you and your family. Chances are, through being open and honest, you will realize 1.) how not alone you are in your struggles and 2.) your community will better know how they can support you.
Now it’s your turn… how have YOU navigated hurdles and roadblocks in parenting? I’d love to hear your ideas, so leave a comment and let’s chat!