We all know parenting can be a tough – but also extremely rewarding – job. At times, family life can be moving along well and at others, there may be challenges which push you and your child to your limits.
Anxiety, bullying, learning difficulties, cyber safety, peer group pressure or family conflict can leave you wondering where to go next.
Every year Parent Line takes more than 8000 calls from desperate parents needing help … but why are they making that call?
Here are the Top 5 issues affecting parents about their children over the past 12 months and some suggestions on handling them.
- Technology use:
Children are operating electronic devices as both a source of learning and entertainment, with many parents finding it extremely difficult to manage the amount of time their children spend on them. Excessive periods of time spent on devices can be detrimental for obvious reasons including it can wire the brain towards ‘pleasure seeking’ behaviours, takes time away from other activities such as playing outside, sport, homework and spending time with family and friends and can become a form of ‘escape’ from dealing with stress and anxiety.
Try avoiding technology in bedrooms, help your child choose what they watch, limit screen time, opt for alternatives to technology-based activities and quite simply just turn them off.
- Support during separation:
Research has shown that while separation is a difficult time for families, it is exposure to parental conflict which is most damaging for children rather than the separation itself. Developing a co-operative relationship with your child’s other parent is the best way to support your children. A good way to do this is to let your children know that, “while mummy and daddy are no longer a team, they are still a team when it comes to parenting you”.
Children often feel responsible for separation so it is vital to reassure your child that it is not their fault and that both parents’ love for them hasn’t changed. Stick to routines as much as possible and, if you become concerned about your child’s mood or behaviour, seek professional support.
- Managing tricky peer relationships
In schools, children – particularly girls – are constantly taught about protecting themselves from harm. Paedophiles, online grooming, sexting and the harm caused by drug and alcohol use is something that is well known, but in reality the more likely destructive influence on an adolescent girl’s day-to-day life is the damage they do to one another in their friendship groups. Exclusion, gossip, belittling and conditional friendship can all be experienced and have ramifications that effect the entire family.
Helping children recognise the qualities of good friendships, promoting kindness, compassion and empathy as well as supporting a broad range of friendships, especially those outside of school can all help.
Fearful and anxious behaviour is common in children – especially as they come across new situations and experiences. Most children learn to cope with different fears and worries which can involve trying to avoid the situation or having a parent or other adult deal with it for them. While this works in the short term, avoiding the fearful situation makes it more likely that they’ll feel anxious and be unable to manage it next time. The goal for most kids isn’t to eliminate anxiety completely. It’s really about giving them the skills to manage anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying life.
- Parent/Carer Wellbeing
The greatest gift you can give your child is a healthy ‘you’, that is, a parent who is mentally and emotionally well. Parent/carer self-care is an important aspect of parenting which is often overlooked, but there is a direct relationship between parent/carer mental health and the well-being of children. With the hectic pace of modern family life, prioritising self-care can be a challenge for many parents, but it should be a regular part of your daily routine.
Parents who call report that daily exercise, eating well, prioritising sleep, engaging in an activity which is pleasurable, connecting with family and friends, and having down time really helps their parenting. If you are starting to feel that parenting is overwhelming, it may be worth looking at some professional support.
Parent Line provides immediate telephone and online counselling, support, information and referral for parents and carers of children aged 0 – 18 years across the state. There are no waitlists and no referrals required to access the service.
Parent Line NSW is one of the few services which parents and carers can access outside of normal business hours to talk about parenting issues with a qualified Parenting Counsellor. For many parents and carers who are grappling with complex parenting issues, we are their lifeline.
Parent Line is open 7 days per week from 9am – 9pm Monday to Friday and 4pm – 9pm on weekends. Parent and carers can get in touch by calling Parent Line on 1300 1300 52 (for the cost of a local call) or, alternatively, they can private message us on facebook and we can arrange for Parenting Counsellor to call them back.