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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Thompson

Parenting: Instructions Not Included

Updated: Apr 3

Children need to see that we accept them, no matter what.

Whether biological, adoptive, foster, or other alternative roles, we all have had a caregiver in our lives. This experience is one of the few that all humans around the world have. These relationships come in many forms being looked back on with varying degrees of fondness or, sometimes, even sadness. Yet, though this experience is universal, it is never experienced in the same way both among countries and even within the same community. With all of these varying experiences, how do you know what to do when you are in charge of caring for children yourself?

Raising a child is hard. As a caregiver you have so many expectations and things to consider, not to mention, dealing with your own life problems while being in charge of just surviving. Children don’t come with an instruction manual, so there is no way to know exactly what to do in every situation. There is no table of contents to reference to see if you use this consequence or make that limitation. On top of that, every child is different. So, if there were instruction manuals, they would be extremely detailed and be “model specific”. Conversely, there is no limit to the amount of shoulds, musts, ought tos, and unsolicited advice that comes your way. Everyone has an opinion as to the “right way” to raise a child and this opinion changes based on culture, background, and a multitude of other factors.

So what do you do? How do you survive this confusion of certainty and bewilderment? You do your best. There is nothing else that society, and most especially your children, can ask of you. You use trial and error, communication, apologies, and focusing on the core ideas you want to instill in your children. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, or any other caregiver it is most important that you focus on doing only your best. That’s it, nothing more nothing less.

So what is your best? It’s acknowledging your limitations and asking for help when you need it. It’s fessing up to your mistakes and working towards making things better. It’s being ok with things that you don’t know and seeking the answers. It’s realizing that you don’t have limitless energy and taking time to recharge. It’s being yourself, flaws and all, because this is the best way to help your little human see that faults are ok and that trying your best is all you can do.

Children need to see that we accept them, no matter what. And what better way to do so than to show them that we are working on accepting ourselves as caregivers? This is why, when we feel that everything in life is crazy, we need to simplify our focus. Doing so can help to sharpen our focus and allow more time for enjoying the art of caregiving. In this way, it is important to be mindful of our attention, communication, and consistency. Boiling parenting down to doing our best in these three areas is an effective way to reduce our own stress and show our children that we are there for them. Caregiving in this mindset, allows us to focus on the bigger picture of helping a human being set up a successful life, rather than just on the current daily hassle in front of us.

Author: Chelsea Thompson, LMFT

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