It has been said parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. They weren’t kidding. This is hard stuff we’re in. Add behavioural difficulties on top of it and its enough to drive yourself to anxiety or stiff drinks (I’ve experienced both). When you’re a parent of a child going through behavioural challenges, you don’t have a whole lot of time to read or research tips that can help you in your journey, which is why I have decided to write this blog. I have, and will continue to blog on the subject as it’s been a method for me to solidify my learnings in my own heart, as well as provide hope, help, and encouragement to you in the struggle. I don’t claim to know it all or be a professional in the field, but I hope my words can in the very least communicate, “It’s not just you”. You are not alone
So, ready? Here are the two greatest nuggets of wisdom I have not only read about and researched, but have experienced as success for myself as of late.
1. Get curious about your child’s issues
Our children did not wake up wanting to be difficult. This may surprise us because difficult behaviours seem very intentional on their part, but I assure you every child has a heart to connect with their family and do well. If this isn’t a reality, something has been damaged or has made this difficult for them. The key as a parent is to get curious as to WHY. It’s brave terrain to be open to what you may discover.
I’ve done a fair amount of reading on many different ideas doctors have as to the origins of where ADHD has come from (because that’s one of my son’s diagnosis’). Environment seems to keep coming up as something all varying opinions can agree on. If this is the case, then my son has experienced an environment that has enhanced his mental struggle. When I read this, it all sounded great in theory until I realized that that would lead directly back to ….. me (gulp). Half shocked and appauled I decided to be brave to ask my son this question I felt I should ask:
Me: “Son, what do you remember of me when you were little?”
My son: “Yelling at me, yelling at Dad, swearing, unhappy”.
Me: Silence. Shame overtakes me. I swallow deep, I can’t seem to breathe. Words aren’t coming. I don’t know what to feel other than horrible about myself. What kind of Mother am I?? I’m not fit for this. I think of all the phrases that start with “I can’t”… But then I get brave and respond by saying;
“Son, I am so sorry”.
His reaction revealed this seemed to be enough for now to keep conversation lines open and connection’s bond tighter.
This is a hard blog to write because this means I have to admit I was wrong and had a part to play. This is hard for many parents. No one wants to admit we don’t have it all together. The truth is, when my oldest son was born I had just lost my business, three members of my immediate family had all passed away who I was very close to, I moved to a new city where I felt very much alone, and having conflict in my marriage on top of it all. Add a newborn with no sleep and you could easily say I was battling depression. Fast forward a few years later where my son’s mood and behavior started to show to be a challenge and me having no idea how to deal with it – and you can only imagine how many ugly words slipped out of my mouth in my frustration.
That’s my story. You may find you have no part to play in your child’s behaviour. You may discover they’ve been struggling with peers or stress at school, but the key is to be open to hearing what they have to say as it reveals the WHY the behaviour is manifesting. From there, communications lines are wide open, your child feels heard, and solutions can be discovered.
2. Take care of your mental state first
The greatest thing I have learned after owning my own shortcomings in parenting is to get curious about WHY I’ve been struggling as well. Going on a journey of healing and wholeness is the best gift a parent can give to themselves and their child. After all, the only person we control in this life is ourselves. I have found greater success in working on myself rather than draining myself of all my energy trying to make my child behave better.
This has caused me to look at my life through the lense of my child who desperately needs a mom who can keep it together in the midst of his emotional storms. I had to examine the way I was living my life and make changes to create a better environment at home that was less stressful. Here are some of the changes I’ve made that have made a world of difference in the amount of peace that inhabits our home, but even more, in myself:
– I chose to be out less and home more. This meant limiting my evening outings away from the family to 2 nights a week.
– I chose to only work during school hours and be there to pick up my kids every day. Not everyone can do this, but for our home I know my children do best when I am present after school.
– I make sure I’m eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis. When I don’t do this, I quickly notice how my intolerance level rises at alarming rates.
– I get up before the kids on school days to have morning coffee in silence and I meditate on scripture. If my cup isn’t filled spiritually, I’m hopeless.
– My husband and I have been working hard on our marriage. It’s a work in progress but we’re learning to stay calm when stress hits and to talk things out.
– I’ve been learning how to calm myself down when my buttons are being pushed or when stressful situations are on the rise. Slow breathing, speech that is calm. I’m learning to be proactive rather than reactive.
– I’ve got real about my negative emotions, disappointments and continue to surrender them. I’ll admit there are many days I dislike the cards I’ve been dealt. How many times have I cried out, “This is too much for me to handle”. Being honest about these feelings rather than repressing them is healthly. I believe the reason for my anger in the past have been because I didn’t get real about how I was feeling. Somewhere I starting to believe that to be brave meant to deny myself of negative emotions. That being said, I choose not to stay fixated on these thoughts by surrendering what is completely out of my control and embracing the strength my Creator wants to give me.
– I’ve limited our family outings dramatically to make life less busy and stressful. My son’s anxiety cannot handle too many extra curricular activities and outings. A busy lifestyle for him equals his anxiety doubling so I have made sure that our life has simplified and relaxed.
I’m not perfect at any of the above by any means, but by focusing on bettering myself these areas I have seen dramatic changes in my son and his desire to connect with me. When he has an episode, it escalates and falls much quicker than before, not because I have done anything to help his behaviour, but because I’ve been focusing on mine.
My greatest encouragement to you today is to stay brave through the storms of parenting. Our children are worth it and you’ve got this.
In your corner,