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Parents, Give Yourselves a Break!

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The other day I was thinking, “What is one piece of advice that I would impart to parents of young children?” I have lots of advice snippets, but one that stands out is GIVE YOURSELVES A BREAK!

Parenting is a tough job. The journey is long, and the path is winding with many forks. We do our best. Kids don’t come with manuals. And though online parenting information is abundant, the wealth of information can make parenting more challenging, not less. Everybody has advice about how to parent. Websites, books, blogs, and YouTube videos flood the parenting market. And when we get to those forks in the road, it’s harder to know which way to go when there are so many possibilities.

Not only is there way too much parenting information, but we live in a culture of fear-based information. If you make one choice, your child will become entitled; another and your child will have low self-esteem. It’s confusing and anxiety-provoking. Sometimes you need to back away, become still, and follow your instincts.

Then add in all the life stressors: making enough money to pay bills, dealing with your outrageous boss, appeasing in-laws, or repairing the furnace. The list is endless. It’s a wonder that any of us raise kids to the age of 10, much less 18! And through all this, we are so hard on ourselves. We are full of regret about parenting mistakes or full of anxiety because we don’t know how to move forward.

One thing I’ve learned in my years of parenting and working with parents is that kids are all different. There isn’t a formula that applies to every child or every family. What works for one child may not work for another. I found this in my own home. Certain parenting strategies that worked for my older son flopped with my younger son. Parenting is trial and error. We make mistakes. We try our best, but it doesn’t always work out the way we hope.

Be kind to yourselves. Practice self-compassion. Understand that you are doing the best that you can at the moment. Be real with your kids. They don’t need perfection, and they will learn more from a parent who admits making a mistake than they will from a “perfect” parent. Most of all, let the past go. It’s over. Move forward. Kids are much more resilient and forgiving than you think. Something I’ve learned now that my kids are adults is that someday, your children will understand that you tried your best!