by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
As parents, we are often working on life lessons that mirror our children’s. While we tend to be highly in tune with our kids’ challenges as well as our own, it can be helpful to notice how they actually relate to and reflect each other. By raising awareness of our “parallel process,” we can bring even more compassion and grace to interactions.
Here are a few examples of how our own challenges can be similar to our children’s:
Children may be learning patience by waiting their turn for a bounce on the trampoline, waiting in the minivan while you fetch one last diaper, or waiting for dinner when their little tummies feel so empty. We work on patience while we wait for our child to try on four different shirts before a party or while our toddler stops to pick up every stick, nut, and pinecone on the way home from dance class.
Mastering something new
Kids are trying to master something new when they attempt a new puzzle, try to write their name for the first time, or dunk under water in the swimming pool. We are mastering something new when we read about strategies for positive discipline, cook a kid-friendly crock-pot meal for the first time, or fly with three young children on an airplane all by ourselves.
A baby or child might be learning to settle down in her bed at night after a busy day or sleep through illness or teething pain. She might be trying to get through a day of playing while crabby or drowsy. We might be struggling with sleep when our feisty toddler wakes up at the crack of dawn or when we stay up late watching Dancing with the Stars instead of going to bed when we should. We might be trying to stay cheerful even when we feel as lethargic as a snail or so wiped out that we feel we’ve been run over by a monster truck.
Being the new one
A preschooler might be hesitant to walk into school where she doesn’t know a soul, to participate in a t-ball class where he’s never been before, or to play with a new gang of kids at the park. We might be dealing with our own unsettled feelings about being the new mom at playgroup, the block party, or a new mom yoga class.
If we consciously and skillfully approach our own challenges, we model resiliency, tenacity, and strength that our kids can bring to their own.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, mom to three, is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples in Chicago’s western suburbs. She specializes in counseling for parents of babies and young children. www.erinleyba.com or firstname.lastname@example.org To follow this blog by e mail, click the follow button on the left.