Nothing sparks a lively conversation more than one freaked out mama spilling her guts about forgetting to pack lunch or sign the kids up for sports. Parents carry a lot of fear and responsibility. And sometimes, it’s too much.
Debbie Clark, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Hawaii Kai, knows that debilitating guilt well. “I’m always in awe of people’s capacity,” she says. “We set the bar so high for ourselves.”
It’s important to balance that with our own self-care and an understanding that our children are independent little beings. “Parents’ greatest work,” she says, “is letting children grow into who they’re going to be.”
When enough is enough
Curiosity, exploration, and alone-time work for all ages. Kids need alone time to discover who they are. “Balance structured activities with unstructured time,” Clark says.
Don’t expect perfection−from yourself or your child
Clark understands the drive for perfection, but suggests tapping the breaks. “Maybe we should help our kids navigate the B- rather than push for that A,” she says. Raising resilient kids is at least as important as raising good students.
“Cut yourself some slack,” she says. “You don’t have to attend absolutely everything.” By modeling that balance, you show your kids it’s OK to prioritize.
Seeing parents struggle and get through situations can be powerful for kids. When your car breaks down, it’s OK to be frustrated, Clark says. Your kids watch as you call for help and learn how to power through adversity.
Give yourself a break
“If you’re maxed out, recognize it, honor it, and act on it,” Clark says.
“When I mention self-care to single mothers, they laugh,” she says, and yet she stresses that even five minutes of deep breathing or a walk can be powerful. It’s good for kids to know that Mom needs a break, and they’ll probably remember that when they face a hurdle.
Don’t go it alone
If you’re dealing with a destructive home situation, there are resources that can help. “Abused spouses cover things up,” Clark says. “It’s part of survival.” She recommends parents in destructive situations seek counseling and support. “There’s healing to be done,” she says, “and starting that process gives you the opportunity to have a better life for you and your child.”