Frazzled Mom Moment
As a child psychotherapist, people often make the assumption that I don’t make mistakes in my parenting (spoiler alert – wrong!). The truth is, I am armed with a plethora of knowledge about “best practices” in parenting, child development and attachment and bonding; all of this knowledge makes me acutely aware of my perceived shortcomings as a parent. I take the easy way sometimes (TV as a temporary babysitter, or “giving in” to a tantrum). I meltdown sometimes and hide in my bathroom for 5 minutes of personal space. Sometimes, I even (gasp), yell. I am not a perfect parent, but like many parents, put pressure on myself to not make mistakes. You are hard pressed to find a parenting article on social media that doesn’t come along with judgemental comments from parents who presumably never make mistakes. This culture of constant judging, and the threat that we are screwing up our kids somehow, plays heavily on my mind.
My little guy was recently assessed as having delayed speech. Like a “good parent” I took him to the specialists and received their assessment and treatment plan; and then I was instantly overwhelmed. There were so many “do’s” and “don’ts”, and even the professionals couldn’t give a consistent message about how to help him. Either way, it was a very “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” kind of scenario. I was doing everything they recommended and nothing was changing. I got the sense that they didn’t believe I was working as hard as I was, or maybe they thought I was doing it wrong. I don’t know what it was, because I’m not a mindreader; but either way, it was subtly or directly communicated to me that I was the problem interfering with my child’s success. It was like being punched in the gut.
In my practice I work predominantly with children who are struggling behaviourally and experiencing large scale tantrums and meltdowns. In my early training we were taught that this was the result of inconsistent and permissive parenting. I would teach parents how to be consistent and if the child still exhibited the behaviour, it was because the parent wasn’t doing it right. Now, over the years my understanding and training in managing child behaviour has grown and evolved almost 180 degrees. I know now that parents are not to blame for their children’s behaviour. Most parents want nothing more than to do everything they can to help their child have success. Parents are doing the best they can, and kids are doing the best they can. My role shifted to helping parents and kids identify what is getting in the way of success, and helping them cross those hurdles. I am now a facilitator of problem solving. I still have an abundance of tips and tricks for helping manage child behaviour that I gladly share with parents; but I no longer expect that everything will work for every child or parent.
Having my own children, and getting to experience the stress of working with professionals has given me a whole new perspective as well. I can absolutely empathize with the sense of powerlessness, guilt, and desperation many parents come to me experiencing. Parents are people too, and need validation, recognition and reassurance. I am hoping that in my role I can be a person who provides that to families. I want to see your child succeed as much as you do, and I want to help figure out what is getting in the way so we can problem solve it. I hope that I never forget what it feels like to feel like a powerless, desperate parent who wants their child to succeed; I am a better therapist for that experience. Mom’s, you are doing the best you can, and that is something to be proud of.
FYI -Some resources I like for parents:
Meghan Lederman is a registered psychotherapist in private practice in Welland, ON. Meghan specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents facing a wide range of challenges, including: problematic behaviour, anger, depression, anxiety and self-harming. To contact Meghan, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org