By Melissa Ford
In addition to coaching parents, I facilitate interactive workshops helping moms and dads glean empowering insights and acquire easy-to-use tools to make parenting more enjoyable and effective.
But it doesn't stop there!
Time and again I witness a subtle yet remarkable shift - parents genuinely relax - feeling more at ease in spite of their parenting concerns. Through the simple act of sharing the truth about their challenges, a mythical assumption that most parents operate under (that unwittingly causes a lot of anguish) is shattered:
No one else is struggling with problems in their family.
In other words, no one else has a kid who is as unappreciative or disrespectful as mine or a child who doesn't care about school or a bossy four-year-old who is out-of-control or a video-obsessed son who has no friends. And no other parent feels as overwhelmed, stressed, bad, angry or guilty as I do. NO ONE!
Who wants to be the first to admit her kids are a pain or feels challenged by a two-year-old? Not me! But I've discovered that telling the truth is transformative. It's freeing to share what's going on in my home. It lifts the burden off my shoulders. It makes me real and fallible, breaking down barriers and giving my friends and clients permission to be open, too.
This same magic occurs in workshops when one brave soul reveals feeling scared or stuck. Soon everyone realizes that they are not alone and the response is incredibly positive! Relief, hope, and validation quickly spread throughout the room. I see more smiles, hear more laughter as everyone realizes that being at end of their "parental" rope is a universal experience.
This transformation only occurs when parents stop comparing their private lives to the public lives of others.
I remember many times (in spite of my best efforts), my child was surly or my kids were squabbling or my husband was disappointed or I'd get the eye-roll or "I don't care!" comment in response to a reasonable request such as please graduate from high school. Bothered by these unsavory experiences, I'd catch the happy family across the street, joking and laughing, packing their car for a two-week-cross-country-trek together. I'd start thinking, Why can't we get along like the (fill-in-the-blank) family? What am I doing wrong as a parent? Why doesn't my child behave like so-and-so? Two weeks? We wouldn't last for two days!
The truth is that parenting is a lot of work; we make mistakes; kids act like kids; and no one is exempt from hitting bumps in the road.
Behind every family's public persona is a private side that looks just as grainy and gritty as the family down the street. It's called life: learning to get along with others, figuring out how to best guide your child, feeling comfortable even when your child's convinced you're the meanest, uncoolest parent around and, most importantly, loving yourself in the process.
Next time you START comparing your private life to that perfect family in the grocery store, STOP! Instead call a friend or a caring relative and share what's going on. Put your concerns into perspective; say what's true; have a good laugh; acknowledge your efforts; and gather all the evidence that supports how well you are doing in your perfectly real private life!