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Staying Afloat in Sea of (Parent) Shame

If you're a new parent, welcome to the world of joy and delight and also unsolicited advice, countless voices, judgements and criticisms.

To all the in-the-trenches-parents out there, you know the feeling. When all eyes are on you.

The tantrum at the store.

Sibling squabbles at church.

The restaurant scene that draws attention to only your family as other families seem to be enjoying themselves quietly and happily.

And don't forget family gatherings where anyone older than you reminds you that "I would have never gotten away with that behavior when I was a kid."

Shame is a hard feeling to shake and unfortunately it's a driver of much negative behavior in both children and adults. It easily enters any space and any relationship but with some effort, it can be stopped and put in its place.

The author Heather T. Forbes*, writes that there are two primary emotions. Love and fear. I will oversimplify: the joyful and happy feelings come from love, the sad and scary feelings come from fear. She writes, "When the parent is more concerned for his needs than the needs of the child, then fear exists-fear-based parenting exists." If you can shift to love-based parenting that places the parent-child relationship above all other priorities (before academic success, before achievements and awards, before what others think of you), there is no place for shame to grow or thrive. One of the first steps toward that is being confident in yourself and your own parenting philosophy. Maybe the way you were parented yourself isn't what feels right for your child. That's okay. You know your child best. As a parent coach, I remind parents that "you're doing the best you can with the tools you have". And then I can offer more tools if that's what you're looking for. Coaching offers a new perspective and insight.

Remember that your role as a parent is not to be a people pleaser, and it is not to gain approval. When we lose sight of that we default to the maladaptive mission of perfecting childhood. Your role as a parent is to strengthen and maintain a healthy relationship to your child so they are capable of living and thriving in this lovely and wild world. Embracing the concept of Self-Compassion** can prepare you with armor against shame and comparison. There's no room for shame when you are confident in who you are and kind to yourself as you face the reality that mistakes will be made along the way. When a circumstance is hard, allow yourself to feel it and heal it and then you can move on.

We are all a work in progress. There's a quote floating around (I'm unable to find the original source) that says something along the lines of "those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter". You're a parent to your children only.

You're doing the best you can with the tools you have.

You have what it takes!

Note: The books I mentioned are amazing resources and I cannot recommend them enough. Consider Self-Compassion for an entirely new perspective of why the concept is so important for well-being and consider Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control for supporting children and teens with challenging behaviors. Enjoy!

*Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather T. Forbes , LCSE and B. Bryan Post, Ph.D., LCSW

**Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

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