Parenting SkillsChildren who grow up feeling loved deeply become adults who are prewired to love deeply - Karen Salmansohn
What is parental guidance?
Parental guidance is the sharing of information and skills with the aim of improving your relationship with your child. It is also a form of therapy as you will need to understand your strengths and limitations as a parent in order to help yourself and your child.
Your relationship with your child has profound and far-reaching impacts on your child’s future mental, physical, social, and emotional health. The single most powerful learning for any parent is how to develop a secure attachment (healthy bond) with their child. You can tend to your child’s every physical, material and educational need, learn a variety of parenting techniques, and even hold, cuddle, and adore your child without creating the kind of attachment that encourages the best development for your child. Children need something more than love and caregiving in order for their brains and nervous systems to develop in the best way possible.
How parents develop a secure attachment with their child lies in the parent’s ability to fulfil that child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection by providing consistent, loving, and responsive care. Children with a secure attachment experience their relationship with a parent as a safe haven and a secure base from which to go out and explore the world. To form a secure attachment, it’s necessary for parents to create a compassionate, forgiving and patient environment and to have the ability to manage their own emotions and reactions. Through their own ability, they can also help their child learn these skills. This doesn’t mean the parent has to be perfect. If parents know how to “repair the ruptures” (moments of disconnection) that occur between them and their children, a secure attachment can be maintained.
Whether we can offer our child a secure attachment lies in our understanding of our own childhood. Our attachment (bonding experience) with our own parents predicts the attachment we will have with our child. Attachment research has found that the greatest predictor of how we will be as parents isn’t what actually happened to us as children but, rather, how much we understand and have allowed ourselves to feel, and work through, the full pain of those experiences from our past. Childhood wounding does not only occur in families with severe problems. As Freud said, “children are creatures that are never satiated, (therefore) there is no parent in the world who can react perfectly to the changing needs of children”. The more we’re able to recall and resolve the big and small traumas that shaped us, the better able we are to recognise when we’re triggered by our children and take healthier actions in the moment.
This understanding frees us from the restraints of our past to become the parent and person we truly want to be. It also frees our children to form more secure attachments, make sense of their own experiences and become more integrated, mindful adults.
How does parental guidance work?
Weekly sessions are recommended if possible. Ideally, both parents would attend. In blended families, both sets of parents and partners can attend sessions together if they want to create a coherent parenting system for their children. However this is not always practical or possible, and the concerned parent can attend alone or with a partner. Parents who are divorced or separated can attend separately if they have a highly conflictual relationship. One parent can attend if the other does not want to attend.
In the sessions, parents will learn:
- what their strengths and limitations are as a parent and how this affects their child
- how the way they were parented affects their own parenting consciously and unconsciously
- how to create a secure attachment with their child
- how to set boundaries with their children in a way that does not damage their relationship with their child
- compassion for themselves and their child
- how to repair the inevitable ruptures that occur in the relationship with their child
- how to work together as a team when parenting especially when both parents have different parenting styles
Communicating with and guiding a child will be much easier for parents once a secure attachment is formed with their child. Additional parenting skills and other areas of concern will also be addressed in therapy.
How do you know you need parental guidance?
- Concerns expressed by teachers or counsellors regarding your child
- You are not coping and are stressed, anxious, depressed, frequently angry, grieving, pre-occupied, or otherwise unable to be calm and present for your child
- You are feeling ineffective or out of control when disciplining
- You feel disconnected from your child and don’t really know what is going on in your child’s life
- You resent your child
- You had a traumatic or painful childhood
- You have alcohol, drug or sex addiction problems
- Your child is concerned about you and is ‘parenting’ you
- You feel disconnected from you own emotions
- You and your child are fighting constantly
- Your child is not communicating with you
- Your child is struggling to cope socially, emotionally or academically
- Your child is being exposed to conflict in your marital relationship
- You are trying to cope with serious, acute, or chronic illness
- Your family is experiencing difficulties making the transition following separation, divorce, or relocation
- Your family is struggling to cope with a loss or death in the family
- Your family is exposed to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events
- Both parents have different parenting styles which are creating conflict and anxiety