I believe few would disagree to the value of supportive and loving parents. Never more has this been emphasised than when parents were dramatically thrust into the brave new world of a global pandemic. These times have left many confronting nothing short of an existential crisis and facing the uncertainty of navigating through the new terrain of a world in lockdown.
I have had the privilege to speak with and support many parents during lockdown. As with all of life their experiences have been rich and diverse. This said, a common theme that seemed present, was one of a tension between feelings of isolation from our usual worlds and an overwhelming level of closeness and intimacy with their loved ones that was quite unfamiliar.
Many seemed confused about just what good parenting looked like within this new environment. Now presented with the task of redefining the purpose of their days together many parents sort counselling to make sense of how to meet the needs of their families. These often now seemed vast and often complicated with many new parental expectations introduced. The introduction of homeschooling alongside any child’s need for stimulation and the usual guidance through their daily experiences had to be often offset against the expectations of working from home. Even the modern world of technology, which offered such a blessing for all isolated and seeking connection, cast within its shadow a pressure of an idealised model of parenting through the lens of social media.
What was clear was how each parent I experienced was keenly aware of the responsibility they possessed and seemed intensely focussed upon the needs of their families, often at the expense of there own. Many felt the pressure to create the optimal environment and found themselves donning many hats. Perfectionism was often present with a level of expectation that left many losing sight of what was right for them too. Whilst we each have diverse and differing needs it seemed that for most the kind of space needed for regulation and calm was at a premium. This left many with feelings of irritation and self-doubt.
A key aspect of parenting is the role of emotional regulator for your child. As parents, we assist our children to cope with the unmanageable emotional intensities they may experience to help make them more tolerable. This process will in time enable them to eventually do this for themselves. This is no simple task when left with little space for frazzled feelings of our own.
Our environment and relationships are fundamental to how we develop an understanding of ourselves. When we are experiencing overwhelming circumstances we can often become dysregulated. This can cause us to lose contact with how we are feeling, making it so much more difficult to navigate our day and lose sight of where we are. For me, this naturally places an emphasis on the importance of making time and space for oneself to enable us the capacity to meet the needs of our loved ones. This is not always an easy task, especially under these kind of circumstances.
The therapeutic relationship offers a unique space for us to slow down and process all of the changes that we have been experiencing. A chance to make sense of the impact they are having upon our own wellbeing and assist in the recognition and definition of our needs.
It is only natural that our attempts to meet our own needs will bring into question our own expectations of ourselves. The therapeutic relationship can offer us the space to explore the origins of these expectations and reflect upon where our limits are. When we can define our limits we can better identify our boundaries. This can leave us better placed to create the space for ourselves at home and avoid becoming overwhelmed. A parent that can also prioritise their own needs as well as their families, is a parent with a greater capacity to tolerate the challenges ahead.
Where there is space, there is room to grow, for all the family.