resilience as a parent

There’s a lot of information out there about how to, and the importance of raising resilient children. I agree to this completely and add that equal importance has to be paid to mums, as a resilient mother has the strength to cope and manage with the challenges of parenting with ease and grace.

Psychological resilience that I am discussing here is ultimately the ability of an individual to adapt to stress. To use some common catchphrases it’s about not letting life knock you down, rising from the ashes or like water off a ducks back. Of course determining if you have resilience relies on the fact that you’ve had some significant amount of stress in your life journey so that you can reflect on how you managed it, how you cope and the state of your life post this stress.

The adjustment to becoming a parent; the process of conception, pregnancy, birth and those first challenging years, can certainly count as a stress!

Motherhood involves different levels of stress – coping with being a parent for the first or the sixth time, managing different challenging behaviours throughout all the different developmental stages from your baby through to your teenager, and adjusting to having children in your life, your change of identity and the differences in the relationships between partners, friends and family. 

What’s the importance of resilience?

It is inevitable as a mum that you will come up again stress. This is not something that you can hide away from, however your family is structured. To have an enjoyable and fulfilling life as a mum then it’s important for you to be resilient so that you can manage this stress, and not let it overwhelm you.

One cohort of mums that I work with want to stop yelling at their children and be the best mum that they can be, the type of mum that they’ve always wanted to be. Yelling is not an effective parenting technique and with the vast majority of mums who I work with say that it happens as part of an escalation process from her child not listening, feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and resentful and then she feels stressed and yells at her child. Therefore yelling is a clear indicator of an unresilient mum.

Children deserve to have resilient mums. They deserve to have mums who parent them effectively and gently, guiding them to become the type of adults that we want our next generation to be led be. They deserve to have mums who enjoy being their mum as well as looking after herself so that she doesn’t feel resentful and end up with empty-nest syndrome when they move out. In families where there are two parents under the one roof, children deserve to have both parents loving and supporting each other in a mutually respectful relationship that is the backbone to a successful and long-lasting relationship. In families, like mine, as a single mum it is just as important as our children depend on us to often act like two parents and single parent families have documented higher levels of stress, so a higher level of resilience is required.

A resilient mum can teach resilience. Its is not easy for a mum who cannot manage stress to help teach and guide her child through the stressful parts of growing up in today’s society. Children model the behaviour of those who they spend the most time with, often primary care givers and often mum. If a child learns how to manage his emotions from a mum who is consciously anxious, worried and quick to anger, then he will also adopt these behaviours and be more anxious, worried and easily angered than a child who is raised in a family where a mum deals appropriately with stress. 

So how do we create resilience?

One of the best ways to create resilience in anyone is looking at their mindset and the way that they perceive their life and the stress that occurs to them. This is easily transferred to mums saying that we can be a resilient mum when we look at our mummy mindset and our perception of the stress that we face as parents of our children.

The phrase ‘positive thinking’ is thrown around a lot, and it is so important. However we don’t want to just discount everything and ignore any stress and just see the world permanently through rose coloured glasses. That isn’t reality, and it isn’t helpful. However we can use the term ‘positive perception’ to help us reframe the stress that we face as mums so that as we go through our journey we become resilient and enjoy our lives and be the best kind of mum we can be.

What is positive perception?

I use the term positive perception to help address how we perceive what we experience in our lives. There are many filters that change our perception of reality, our age, our upbringing and socioeconomic status, the values and beliefs that we have, our gender, our past experiences (and our perception of them), our thoughts, attitude and the decisions that we make. Out of all of those filters, the one that we have instant power and control over is our thoughts.

If we change our thoughts, we change one filter that changes how we perceive our reality. It is well documented how our thoughts create our beliefs and our beliefs in turn create our behaviours. By changing our thoughts we go on to change two more filters – beliefs and the decisions (action) that we make. So the equation is simple – change our thoughts to create a more positive perception to create resilience with you as a mum.

How do we create positive perception?

1. Be open and honest.

Mums who come and work me have taken the first step and admitted to themselves and to me that something is not right with the way that they are parenting their child. This is not about blame or making anyone feel guilty, as after all we’ve all done the best we can with the support and resources available to us at the time. When you are honest with yourself that you want to be doing better, you immediately create a mindset that is open to change, open to new techniques, tips and suggestions and one that will not limit you from your success. This mindset shift is the most powerful first step you can take.

2. Observe and record

Observation is part of the scientific process and indeed is the first step towards changing our thoughts. Observation of what we say and what we think in response to the environment around us. How do we act when our child is pushing our buttons? What thoughts do we think when we act out of line of the type of mum that we want to be? What thoughts are we having about our children when they act inappropriately?

I like to suggest a formal process of observation, journalling. Now this doesn’t have to be the process of sitting down and writing “Dear Diary….” every evening. It could simply be writing a note in an application on your smart phone. Or a simple piece of paper that you keep in a folder, or indeed you can use a note book that you keep. Journalling allows us to reflect back on what we have observed about our thoughts and actions and reflect upon whether they are helpful or not.

3. Reflect and evaluate

As part of the journalling process is asking yourself the question “Does this thought serve me?” or “How would I have liked to act in this situation?” or “What could I have done differently”. When you commit the answers to these questions to paper you create a resource for you to come back and learn from. 

Negative thought patterns erode resilience because they do not necessarily support and empower a mum to manage the stress of parenthood. Thoughts such as “I’m a horrible mum” or “I’m going to damage my children” and “I hate being a mum” if thought frequently enough will become what is referred to as limiting beliefs – that is a belief that is negative, often untrue and does not serve you. When looking at negative thoughts there is one question that a mum should ask herself… “What evidence do I have to support this thought?” Often evidence is circumstantial and definitely not set in stone. 

After evaluating the validity of a negative though or limiting belief, one should ask themselves “What is the more correct or a more useful thought / belief to have?” This step is crucial because it challenges our negative thought patterns and our limiting beliefs and in turn creates an openness towards change.

4. Act differently

When the three above have been completed the final step is to act in a different manner, either behaviourally or with a different thought pattern. If the negative thought was “I’m a horrible mum” and say the evidence to support that was “I yelled at my children today” and the challenge was; that it was a single incident and not an entire reflection of the type of mum I am. A mum can ask herself, “how do I want to act?” By consciously choosing how we act, we learn to manage the stress of becoming a mum by breaking the pattern of reacting to stress and instead consciously acting.

Any person who is successful in life, and any mum who is a successful mum (above and beyond satisfying the basic human needs of shelter, food and safety for their child), will use any challenging or stressful experience as an opportunity to learn. Learn why and how it happen and what can be done in the future to prevent it from happening again. In combination with the example above a mum could go on to ask herself “Why did I yell?”. Was it because I was tired, or hungry, or frustrated with my child not listening or their behaviour? Was it because it is my default carried on from the parenting behaviours I learned while I was raised by my parents? 

The answer to these questions will allow a mum to become aware of her triggers and be able to develop a strategy to prevent stress before it occurs. If a mum was tired, perhaps going to bed earlier and reducing caffeine and stimulation before bedtime as well as exercising during the day. Or if she was hungry making sure that she is eating well and if it was the child’s behaviour that she was reacting to perhaps examining both how to handle her emotional reaction when faced with challenging behaviour from her child as well as looking at different parenting techniques will help her develop a prevention plan.

The steps described above are of course only part of the process of creating resilience. Using relaxation techniques such as the ones taught by myself combined with meditation, healthy eating and exercise patterns as well as maximising quality sleep will all assist a mum in being able to manage stress effectively and be able to be a resilient mum and in turn find motherhood easier as it does not weigh her down and have a better quality of life for herself, her kids and her family as a whole.

Resilience is not something to be discounted, for children or for parents. Frustration and stress are all to common in the life of a mum. It can be managed though for the benefit of herself and her family and should be a priority for all mums.

 

If you have any questions or would like any help creating more resilience in your life please feel free to comment below or send me an email at heather@blissedoutmums.com.au 

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