Guest Blog Post Written By Emma N. Arnoff, LCSW
Are they eating enough? Are they eating too much? What is that rash? When should they be walking? Where should they sleep? How do I discipline them? Am I doing this right? Did I miss something? Will I ever figure this out?
As a mother of twin boys, these are just some of the many questions I have asked myself. Children do not come with instructions! There is no step by step guide for raising children because every child, parent and family is unique and requires different tools, support and care to thrive.
As a mother and a therapist I have learned that everyone has an opinion and there is a plethora of information available to answer every question. You can find almost anything online, and if you can’t, there are Facebook groups of all kinds that you can turn to for advice. There are groups for local moms, for holistic moms and for dads too. There are groups about sleep, about food, about raising kids with special needs, and many more topics you might not even think to look for. Bringing children into the world makes us ask so many questions, but having too many answers can be more overwhelming and can lead to even more questions.
When your child isn’t sleeping through the night and you’ve reached the brink of exhaustion, you may reach out to one of these groups for help. One mother may tell you to co-sleep, while another will tell you to have your child cry it out, and then another will say both of these options are wrong and will forever impact your child. At this point your anxiety goes from bad to worse. You have so many choices and they all seem like they have permanent consequences. Or, maybe your child struggles with following directions and hyperactivity. Their school says they need medication, your family says it’s just a stage, and google has you thinking they have an incurable behavioral problem. All of this “help” can move us from worried to panicked.
So, what can you do?
First, take a deep breath. Your daily decisions do not have permanent consequences. There is a lot of trial and error to parenting. If your gut says to try one way, do it, and if it doesn’t work you can try something different. If your children know they are loved and have all their basic needs met, you can take some time to figure out the rest.
Also, remember there are not “right” and “wrong” choices, but rather different choices.
For some families co-sleeping is right, while for others the cry it out method works. For some families medication feels right, while for others a combination of therapy and exercise may do the trick. In every stage of life our children are changing, so the best choices for them will also continue to change. All we can do is try to meet their needs as they grow.
Second, choose your experts. This was one of the most helpful things I learned to do as a parent. If you listen to every friend, family member, and person online then you will end up constantly overwhelmed and even farther from a practical solution for your family.
Choose the experts in your life that will be available to you as support and whose opinion you trust.
For me this includes our pediatrician, a sleep coach, and an occupational therapist. For you this may include a doctor, a teacher, a psychotherapist, or a speech therapist. Try to limit it to just a few people and to people whose opinions will not contradict one another. When you find yourself stressed out over parenting questions, go to your experts and that’s it!
Third, build your team. Your team is different than your experts. It is comprised of the people you know will listen to you and support you when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or angry. They may not know what the rash is on you child, but they will listen to you cry that you haven’t slept all week because of it. We all need to be heard and validated and this is what our team is for.
When choosing your team you want to pick out people who can listen without judging.
Your team is made of a select few people who can be with you through the tough times. Teammates may include family, friends, spouses, and therapists. Teammates can sit with you when you are down without telling you that you should feel any differently.
Lastly, remind yourself you are good enough. If you are reading this blog, if you are a parent with a multitude of questions, if you are feeling overwhelmed about doing what’s right, this all means you care greatly for your children. This means you are invested so strongly in the well-being of your children, and that is amazing.
You love your children and that is the MOST important thing.
Don’t let the internet or anyone else tell you differently. Don’t worry about what another parent in your local Facebook group is doing. Instead, focus on your greatness. For the rest of your life you will make choices that will have difficult consequences and wonderful outcomes for you and your family. These choices don’t define you or your parenting. Your love for your child does. When you feel like you can’t go on, go to your experts, talk to your team and take a deep breath. You are awesome, you’ve got this!
Emma Arnoff is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her practice is in Poughkeepsie, NY at Riverview Psychiatric Medicine. She works with children five and older, families, adults and groups. She has spent the last ten years working with children and families in schools, residential treatment centers, and the foster care system. Emma utilizes a strength based, person centered approach. In addition to working with clients individually, she has facilitated programs and groups on LGBTQ issues, bullying and social skills. As a parent herself, she knows the many skills needed for child rearing and has worked with parents individually and in groups focusing on strengthening the parenting skills needed for different developmental stages. Emma collaborates with clients to solidify their skills to manage challenges and enjoy life to the fullest.
Isn’t Emma awesome?! If you loved this post as much as I did, then you will absolutely want to continue to stay connected with Emma! Be sure to follow her to learn more about her practice and her services!
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