"We're All In This Together" by Director of Counseling and Licensed Psychologist Jen Hamilton
I was recently talking to friend about her teenage daughter when she asked me to recommend a good book to help her navigate some parenting issues. As I sifted through my mind for useful titles, it dawned on me that often with parenting, as with many other important matters, the conventional wisdom is constantly in flux. You could pick any topic— screen time, attentional issues, self-esteem—and find not only that advice has shifted over time, but also that it shifts depending upon which expert you consult. Some examples that jump to mind are: Is it best to let your baby 'cry it out' at night, or is attachment parenting the right approach? Should we provide scaffolding and supervision while our kids do their homework, or is a hands-off approach more effective?
Added to the confusion of disparate and contradictory advice is the fact that our kids sense when we are wavering on an issue just like sharks sense the tiniest bit of blood in a vast body of water. If your child perceives that you haven't quite made up your mind about whether or not he can keep his phone in his room overnight, his convincing arguments would make even Johnnie Cochran's head spin.
I imagine that I am not alone in having believed that once I became a parent, I would be able to tap into my knowledge, values, and intuition in order to know what to do through various stages of my children’s lives. But alas, we are overwhelmed by such love and awe and fear that it is hard not to second-guess many of our own instincts. The weight of your baby's body in your arms is nothing compared to the weight of awe and responsibility that you will hold for the next several decades of your life. Sometimes trusting our instincts is enough, but sometimes we all need some support and guidance around difficult phases and challenges.
Each year I receive many phone calls from parents looking for advice on issues such as setting and enforcing rules, understanding whether their teen’s behavior is normal, getting their kids to open up more, motivating their kids to work harder or help out around the house without nagging, and much more.
In my own experience, I have found that one of the most helpful things can be to talk with other parents about their successes and challenges. Gaining support and guidance from others who are also in the trenches and sharing openly about the things that are hard, the things that are funny, and the things that we are still trying to work on can be extremely reassuring. Often, it seems that everyone else has it all figured out. When you compare your own internal experience (occasional self-doubt around important parenting issues) with someone else's best external version (perfectly orchestrated Facebook page rife with perfect-seeming photos of family bonding, well-behaved and gifted children) it can intensify those difficult feelings of self-doubt.
I would love to propose a parenting discussion group at Nobles for anyone interested in getting together to talk about these issues. In addition to sharing and connecting around this most-important job, some strategies will be discussed for setting limits, getting kids to listen, and creating a space for kids to open up and talk.
We will meet on Monday, April 10 from 8:00-9:30 a.m. in the Castle Study. Please email me at JHamilton0f@nobles.edu if you are interested in joining the discussion. I always enjoy hearing from parents, and look forward to collaborating with many of you.