Monday, August 15, 2011
lessons learned - a therapist's thoughts on raising a family
When I was thinking of people I could ask to write a little something for my blog I instantly thought of my great friend and former colleague, Sara Filliettaz. She is a therapist who works with many families. She is also a wonderful mom to two young boys. I asked her to give us her expert advice on what exactly children need or how to be a good parent. She writes so beautifully about her experience as a mom and a therapist. Thanks, Sara!
Lessons Learned by Sara Filliettaz
My past colleague, current friend (and wedding photograher extraordinaire!) asked me to contribute a few lessons learned as a fellow Mom and child and family therapist - so here they are...
Hearing my 4 year-old yell for Mommy and my 6 year-old ask for my attention simultaneously is a frequent occurrence in my home. However, lately it has been reaching new levels of ridiculousness - particularly in the morning. Ususally when I am frantically trying to get all their stuff ready for the day, put together a reasonable semblance of a breakfast and get myself ready for work.
My 6 year-old who is a quiet, smart, inquisitive, shy and slightly anxious child - often takes a backseat to his younger, more outgoing, louder, and more social and demanding brother. This was a recent conversation I had with him first thing in the morning...
Emmet: "Mooommmy...I need you to watch me put my Star Wars legos together...."
Me: "Emmet, I can't do that right now. I need to get in the shower and get ready for the day. You need to work on it by yourself for a little while..."
Emmet: "Buuuut Mommy I neeed you...."
Me: "Emmet - I asked you to work on it by yourself, or you can read a book or draw or wait until I am done. I know you can do it."
Emmet: "But I cannnn't. I neeed you..."
You get the picture. It wasn't even 7 a.m. and already my stress, frustration and guilt levels were hitting their peaks. SO, I took a deep breath and reminded myself of what I remind families I work with every single day in my private psychotherapy practice... try to give clear expectations ("You need to work on this by yourself right now"), set good boundaries (Mom needs a little space), and support ("I know you can do this") = a happy, secure child.
However, consistency is the key to this formula and I have always struggled with that part of parenting. My spontaneous "fly by the seat of my pants" parenting style has not always synched with my structure-loving older son and my emotionally demanding younger one. I have been guilty of giving in to sometimes unreasonable demands by my children (another snack, dessert before dinner, another stop at Target, carrying my younger child all over the planet although his legs work reasonably well...) simply due to exhaustion and because it was the easier route.
Somehow at work I am able to step into the role of therapist, counselor and advisor with the families I work with successfully, but in my private life I sometimes feel like a bit of a mess as a parent.
So I practice. And I practice some more. And I give myself a break - because after all parenthood is challenging for everyone - even therapists.