A parent is a person too! In all our efforts to help parents be better able to nurture, empathize, validate and support their children, we often tend to forget the parent. But the parent-child relationship contains 2 people- the child and the parent. Both are important.
Parents should be encouraged to accept and take care of the needs and feelings they themselves have. First it helps the parent feel less stressed and that is always good. Second, a parent who accepts and empathizes with their own needs and feelings, is more able to be accepting and empathic toward their child. Parents deserve it. And it’s better for their children.
I want to advocate for parents. Parenting is for the child but it is not just about the child. Since so much is required from the parent, the parent needs to be well taken care of as well. This is why for all those who interact with parents it is best to be supportive and positive toward them. I do not mean just the mental health or social service professionals. I mean their partners or spouses, their family and their friends. When parents feel good about what they are doing, they actually do a better job.
What can a parent do for themselves? What’s required is for a parent be able to experience their own neediness and vulnerability and to be tolerant and accepting of these parts of themselves- even to take care of them when necessary. I have known many parents who believe they are not supposed to have needs or who feel ashamed of their vulnerability. When this happens it sometimes makes parents too insensitive to these issues in their child; Sometimes on the other hand it makes parents too overly sensitive to these issues in their child. Usually a more middle level of sensitivity is more optimal. Typically these negative self judgments are left over from the parent’s own childhood. This is why the self-reflection of Reflective Parenting is so important. It gives a parent the chance to re-consider and re-work some of these old issues and to learn to be more kind, caring and positive toward themselves.