Debra Younger LMHCP
Mental Health Therapist
Good Enough Parenting
I wonder how many of us have bought the lie that infants and children prior to the age of 5 are too young to really be affected by events in their lives. That a baby or toddler is too young to understand the loss of a parent, either through death or divorce. That the ways we treat them aren’t that big a deal as long as we don’t abuse or neglect them.
The reality is, it is exactly the opposite. The interactions that an infant, toddler and young child experience, form the foundation of their sense of self-worth and value, for good or bad. Through the use of Attachment Theory is how we addresses this topic.
A simple way of understanding this, is that every human being is born with a potential to be. This potential involves our genetics, but it is shaped and developed or not developed, in response to our environment. So a child might have the potential to be a wonderful singer, but if that child is raised in a home where that gift is not appreciated, but rather belittled and put down, that child will most likely never realize their potential and actually come to believe that they can’t sing. On the other hand, if that same child is raised in a home that accepts and honors their gift, they might be like 4 year old Kaitlyn Maher, who wowed the judges on America’s Got Talent.
The important message here for all parents and parents to be, is that you are critically important and have an unbelievable impact on who and what your child will become. It is in your interactions with your child, starting at the moment of their birth, that they begin to form their very sense of self; who they are in relationship to the world. This is an awesome responsibility and a scary one at the same time. One that as a parent of two children I understand.
The good news is you don’t have to be a “perfect” parent to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. As Winnicott put it, you just have to be “good enough”. But what does it mean to be good enough?
As a psychotherapist who specializes in attachment work, and has two grown children, I wish I had known then what I know now. I can easily look back and see all the ways in which I would have done things differently, if I had only known, but I didn’t. This article is about honoring the fact that we are all doing the best we can, in the moment we are doing it, with the skills we have, until we have better skills. My hope is to point out some ways to grow new skills.
What are some ways you can gain the knowledge and skills to make you a better parent?
1. Take a parenting class. Learn about normal childhood developmental tasks and how you can support your child in accomplishing these tasks.
2. Educate yourself about attachment theory and its critical importance to your child. There are many books and resources that will help you gain the knowledge that you need, (these are just a small example):
Attachment Parenting Book by Laura Carrilton
Beyond the Sling: A Real Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik, PhD
The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears
3. Participate in a parenting group that supports and encourages healthy parent child attachment.
4. If you find yourself struggling to be the kind of parent you want to be, reach out for help. Many times our inability to respond in healthy ways to our children is because we have issues from our own childhood that get in the way. Find healing for yourself, so that you can offer your child the parent that you both deserve.
For those of you who have already raised your children and are thinking it is too late, don’t! It is never too late. There are many opportunities to heal in relationships with your children, with your parents and always a delight to help your children love their children! Many of you have grandchildren, and while your role is not normally as pivotal as the parent’s you still have an important role to play, and can be a wonderfully positive influence on the child! Don’t under estimate your role in your grandchildren’s lives and your continued role in your children’s lives.
We work hard at MOSAIC FAMILY Counseling Center to help heal the relationships, enhance understanding and help families in whatever need they have, from where ever they are! I encourage you to seek a little help if you find yourself in relationships that are not as rich as you would like them to be!
*MOSAIC FAMILY Counseling Center is The Center of Excellence in the healing of life's challenges.