A huge theme this month has been all the ‘conflicting information’ we encounter as parents. Over and over again there has been glaring examples of how much our parenting stress amps-up when we try and navigate these mixed messages.
It came up big-time in last week’s conversations when the theme was ‘picky eating’, as well as the usual in terms of how many ‘shoulds’ I noticed generally as I mingled with parents everywhere. (I see ‘should’ as a clue we might be thinking about doing something for someone else’s benefit more so than our own – and what I know to be true is that running too many ‘shoulds’ is tiring/quickly builds resentment/sucks our love of parenting out right from under us)
‘Conflicting information’ was far less of an issue pre-parenthood, wasn’t it? It is like BAM! ….apon finding out we are pregnant there is immediately all manner of confusion around the reliability of the information we are fed about what we need to eat more of, and less of, and none of, and whether the one glass of sweet sherry at Aunty Beryl’s 70th is legit enough that we can politely ask tsk tsk tsking rellies to stuff off, or whether we need to hold our tongue.
Then we birth…and every nurse on duty that day somehow has a different plan for how we should tackle feeding that little blighter. So we usually start parenthood in tears. Overwhelmed, hormones going bananas, and without enough sleep on board to make as many of our decisions as rationally as we would like.
Following that introduction to parenthood come the infant years, the toddler years, the preschool years and by then (if not way before) we are positively swimming in information overload about what our role is, what will set our kids up well, what we ‘should’ be doing as ‘good’ parents , and how much is ‘enough’.
What I have seen make the absolute most difference to families in all the parenting work I’ve done with 500+parents in the last 10 years, is not my adding more information to their information overload. Yes – that too has been useful, but what has been hands-down far more useful is offering myself as someone independent to sit with and look at all the conflicting information they have driving the way they parent and the conflicting expectations they have of themselves, of their children, and of their partner and extended family and friends and where it is causing their stress levels to sit. When a parent can prioritise the time to lay out all that they have and reflect on their own values, they can declutter, simplify and lighten their parenting load by getting clearer on their parenting role. The parenting role they write for themselves with the information they know about the family they are the expert on. Theirs!
I love being with parents when they realise how much in their parenting they do for the approval of others (or because they read somewhere that they ‘should’), and how free they feel once they put some healthy boundaries around what they actually (from their deep down molecules) deem important, and let go of things they have decided not to place so much importance on.
‘Nail Your Family Brand’ – is a short program I wrote and delivered for the first time this month over at Newcastle Health Collective. What I love about it is it is coming completely from families attending together and brainstorming what values they think are their key ones, ways they can see that lately they have demonstrated those values, texting people they know halfway through and getting them to describe their family in three words (and reflecting on their answers for clues around the values they aspire to and which ones they are visibly living out) Then comes the creatively putting that into something visual to display at home.
It is such a positive reason to gather together. None of this pretending we are ‘fine’ until the wheels fall off and then booking into a parenting program full of strategies for getting the kids to behave. I also run those, and they are great in their own way, but I am so heartened by the dynamics I saw at play in ‘Nail Your Family Brand’ this month that I am looking forward to lots more sessions where lots more families are brought together that way. I invite you to take time out and use the notes here to start (or ramp up) a values conversation with your family….. or you might like to book into my next offering and enjoy having me facilitate it for you so you can enjoy just wearing the one hat and being thick in the discussing (and enjoying the great resources I bring to assist the brainstorming).
‘Nail Your Family Brand’ is a two-hour opportunity to take time out together and open the conversation around what
your family has and needs, and establish a set of common values to work from as a team. Values that will set you up to thrive through whatever the next chapter brings,