Finding Your Own Voice As a Parent

Finding Your Voice as a Parent - Judy Zexter, Marriage and Family Therapist Santa MonicaWhen it comes to raising kids, there is a wealth of information and advice out there.  There are books that outline specific philosophies, friends who share their “tried-and-true” techniques, and family members who insist they know what’s best for YOUR child.

I’ve worked with many mothers and fathers who end up experiencing inner conflict and self-doubt related to the pressure they feel to subscribe to others’ models of parenting.  When the methods they convince themselves they should be applying do not mesh with their own strengths and limitations as well as the dynamics of their individual families, they feel like failures.  This is a result of being unable to authentically practice these parenting approaches that clash with their personal inclinations, their particular personalities and their specific circumstances.

It is not a one size fits all approach

There are certainly universal guidelines from the fields of medicine and psychology that can assist in providing you with a general framework for raising a healthy, well-adjusted child.  A trusted pediatrician can offer you recommendations around nursing, eating, sleeping and overall health related decisions.  Additionally, awareness around psychological research related to the importance of providing consistency and predictability for your child’s brain and social development can be very useful.  However, the paths you take, the routines you establish and the details around how you achieve an environment of safety and nurturance can differ greatly from family to family.  There is no one size fits all manual for child rearing and there is no one ideology to follow.

Identify your intentions and goals

In order to determine what makes sense for you, it is not only helpful to identify your intentions and goals of parenthood, but to also take into account how your own childhood experiences may be influencing your thoughts, feelings and ideas. In doing so, you may discover some underlying insecurities that are rooted in your past as well as some opportunities for feeling empowered as you evolve into your role as a parent.

Developing a strong degree of self-awareness will put you in a much better position to consciously respond to your child as a separate being from yourself.  This is critical in terms of decreasing the likelihood of automatically reacting to triggers from your own history as opposed to actively responding to the distinct needs of your child.  It will also help you to avoid succumbing to the “should” pressures from others around parenting practices, as your decision-making will feel more integrated and instinctual.

It is crucial to take your child’s temperament and personality into account when determining how best to relate to him or her.  Providing your child with love and acceptance and the gift of truly being seen and heard will create a strong foundation on which your child will flourish.  The combination of taking the time to gain insight into yourself, along with allowing yourself to learn about who your child truly is will not only help you to find a confident voice as a parent, but will contribute to your child’s overall health, happiness and success.