Written By: Heather Aikman, Registered Clinical Counsellor
The beginning of the year is a great time to set new goals and improve on different areas of your life. Being a “better” parent may be one of these areas.
It’s not easy being a parent these days. There are a lot of competing demands between work, activity overload, family life, and managing screen time.
When you struggle with parenting, you may feel as though you are failing your kids. You may be using traditional parenting strategies such time outs or taking privileges away, but finding these strategies just aren’t helping to change behaviour. And in the end you’re left feeling defeated and disconnected from your kids. Feeling as though they are pulling away from you when all you really want is to be close to them.
The good news, though, is that something as simple as “showing up” for your kids can be a game changer in improving your relationship.
Here’s what Dr. Dan Siegel, UCLA Clinical Director of Psychiatry, says in his book, The Power of Showing Up:
“One of the best predictors for how any child turns out – in terms of happiness, social and emotional development, leadership skills, meaningful relationships, and even academic and career success- is whether they developed security from having at least one adult in their life consistently showing up for them.”
What does “showing up” look like?
“Showing up” means offering a quality of presence with your kids. It isn’t just physically showing up at every concert, game or play, but instead being emotionally present and receptive to moments of connection with them and being attuned to their needs.
It also means, being able to stay with them when they are feeling distressed. According to Dr. Siegel “a parent who distracts a child or tells them not to feel a certain way is doing the opposite of showing up.”
“Showing up” leads to secure attachment which means your kids know you have their backs.
This may sound challenging but once you understand what “showing up” entails and with some mindfulness you can put it into practice. According to Dr. Siegel, every child needs what he calls the 4 S’s:
Safe: You can’t always insulate your child from injury or protect them from doing something that leads to hurt feelings but you can offer them a sense of safe harbour. When a child knows they have safe harbour they are better able to go out into the world and take needed risks for growth knowing they have a safe place to return to when they feel scared or distressed.
Seen: Truly seeing a child means you pay attention to their emotions both positive and negative and strive to attune and understand what’s really happening for them.
Soothed: Soothing isn’t about providing a life of ease but teaching your kids how to cope when life gets hard, and showing them you’ll be there along the way.
Secure: When a child knows they can count on you time and again, to show up and you reliably provide safety, focus on seeing them, and offer comfort in tough times they learn others can be trusted and relied upon too. The child grows up feeling loved and valued.
“Showing up” doesn’t mean there won’t be messy parenting moments but it does mean your kids will know you can hear about the tough stuff without freaking out. Your kids will know they aren’t letting you down if they tell you they are struggling, and they will know it is okay to struggle and ask for help.
You don’t need to be a perfect parent and have all the answers you just need to be able to allow space for your children, so they feel seen and heard, and know they have value just as they are.
Do yourself and your kids a favour. Set your intentions today for 2023, to show up for them and feel better about yourself as a parent.
If you’d like more support in learning how to show up for your kids, please reach out to us today at Brentwood Counselling Centre.