By: Lynne Wilkerson, MA, LCMHCA
As parents, I know you do not hesitate to seek help for your children, willingly sacrificing both time and money to meet their mental and physical needs. But, with all that you are giving, are you also taking care of yourself? Have you considered that mental health therapy can be equally, or even more, beneficial to you?
I am embarrassed to admit that, before becoming a mother, I was quite critical of many of the parents I knew, convinced that I would be superior to those I judged to be so ineffective and weak. In my mind, I stupidly thought, “How hard can it be?” But then I had kids. Let’s just say, it didn’t take me long to realize being a parent is very, very, difficult. And mentally draining. And physically exhausting. And complicated.
Some of us carry our own emotional baggage into parenting. If we are anxious individuals, we are anxious parents. If we had a contentious relationship with one of our parents, we might hesitate to set limits or establish healthy boundaries for fear of the same thing happening with our own child. We feel guilty if our child’s daily tantrums frustrate and annoy us. We worry about how our neuro-diverse child will succeed in a neuro-typical world. At times, we feel isolated and alone, embarrassed to admit our families look nothing like the perfect images we see on our Instagram feed.
Many of us are confused about how to parent. Do I ignore my child in the throes of a tantrum or do I attempt to console? What do I do if he refuses to sleep in his own bed? Is it okay to use timeout? What is the best way to respond to an anxious, fearful, child? There is an abundance of experts offering conflicting advice, which makes determining the “right” parenting approach bewildering and unclear.
ALL of us have been impacted by the pandemic; no one is immune to the stress of these “unprecedented” times. We are wading through a sea of fear and uncertainty, trying to find solid footing, only, it seems, to be hit by another “wave,” and knocked down again.
Family is a unit, not one individual, so the improvement of one positively affects all its’ members. Parents, as the unpaid, unappreciated, but very important, family “influencers,” seeking professional counseling has the potential to not only help us, but our children too. Sometimes, putting yourself first really is best.
Lynne is a mental health counselor at Child and Family Development in Charlotte, NC. Her background includes individual/family therapy and school counseling. As the mother of four children, she is also an expert in what not to do as a parent. Lynne particularly enjoys working with parents, adolescents, and teens.