Reframing Parental Support: Why it is Time to Normalize Seeking Therapy for You and Your Child
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
"Parenting has nothing to do with perfection. Perfection isn’t even the goal, not for us, not for our children. Learning together to live well in an imperfect world, loving each other despite or even because of our imperfections, and growing as humans while we grow our little humans, those are the goals of gentle parenting. So don’t ask yourself at the end of the day if you did everything right. Ask yourself what you learned and how well you loved, then grow from your answer. That is perfect parenting."
Whether from life in general, or as a result from this pandemic, a lot of us have learned the true experience of suffering and of needing support. In my world as a child and family therapist, I have been welcomed into the lives of families facing the challenge of raising happy, respectful, and responsible children - which in and of itself is a feat. And now, all while we wade through a changing and chaotic world, parents are taking on even more pressure and responsibility to support their children amidst the fear, questions, and unknown.
In person school shifting abruptly to virtual school at home, only to shift back again, has kept parents and children on their toes, anxiously awaiting for the next major change to come. As if they haven't already just by becoming parents, the parents I work with are having to constantly readjust their lives to support their children through all of the change. My question is, were any of us trained or taught how to parent, let alone how to parent in a pandemic? It feels as though parents are expected to have it all figured out - we've all heard these words of 'encouragement' in response to a new parent's worry: "It just...kicks in", "It comes naturally", "As soon as you see your child, you'll know what to do." But do we?
Any other job in the world almost always requires training of some sort. A full day requirement of on-boarding meetings, a minimum high school diploma or college degree - sometimes even several degrees, and at the very least, prior experience. As a parent, you can of course read a few of the million parenting books out there, most of which have conflicting information that can leave you feeling even more unprepared and confused. But for the most part, its a figure-it-out-as-I-go approach that in my experience can lead to a lot of self-doubt, guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy or even embarrassment. It is normalized that being a "good" parent is hard, yet essential - and now it is time to normalize that receiving support as a parent is just as essential.
“I came to parenting the way most of us do — knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.”
Mayim Bialik, actress and neuroscientist
Almost inevitably during my work with parents and their children, I hear some version of "How could I not know _________?" or "I should have ________, but I didn't know." There may even be some embarrassment that I knew something that they did not, but should have. What I always say in these moments is: I have trained to know these things, I paid money to go to grad school and study these topics, and spent years putting them into action and I still continuously learn new and sometimes better ways to support the children I work with. We are all on this journey together, and while you dedicate your life to your children, I have dedicated my life to supporting you and your child. What makes you a great parent is that you made the choice to receive support and be open to learning more - not that you have it all figured out.
There is no weakness is seeking help, in fact, it takes courage. More than that, it could be our ultimate goal that it doesn't need to take courage in order to receive support, it's just what we do.
It's hard to ignore the pressure and stigma around you about you or your child needing extra support. However, as we continue to learn as a society: life is hard and isn't meant to be done alone. There is no weakness is seeking help, in fact, it takes courage. More than that, it could be our ultimate goal that it doesn't need to take courage in order to receive support, it's just what we do.
Ask yourself this: what would it take for me to feel confident about receiving support for me and/or my child? And if you are a parent who has a positive experience with a child & family therapist, is that something you like to share, or do you keep it hidden? And parents, I want to hear from you - what can I do, as your family's therapist, to support this shift from inadequacy, shame, and embarrassment to confidence, safety, and authenticity? We always have the opportunity to reframe our ideas of what makes a "good" parent, just as we have the opportunity to reframe our ideas of what makes a "good" child. Rather than continuing to feed the parenting narrative of: "It just...kicks in", "It comes naturally", "As soon as you see your child, you'll know what to do," we can reframe and shift to the narrative of: "It requires continuous learning, and support is there if you need it", "it is hard, and you don't have to do it alone."
So, I'm here to do the work with you. Parenting requires continuous learning, and support is there if you need it. It is hard work, and you don't have to do it alone.
“Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on. As with any risk, you have to take a leap of faith and ask lots of wonderful people for their help and guidance.”
Maria Shriver, journalist
Jamie Quail, MA, LPCC is a Child & Family Therapist and Owner of Wise Nest Counseling, LLC offering play therapy and parent coaching sessions in Boulder, CO.