Bethan O'Riordan

This weeks Ask Bethan: “Can you help me learn ways for myself and husband to parent? He was severely abused as a child.”

I’ve been wondering about the best way to respond to your question as the answer isn’t as clear cut as I’d like it to be. The key to parenting is creating consistent and predictable relationships with everyone in your family. This is tricky, but not impossible if your parenting template and experience of childhood wasn’t like this.

I’m wondering if your husband is in therapy as part of his healing? It’s impossible to heal our emotions and adverse life experiences alone. Having someone to explore life with is essential in creating a safe place to explore what we find hard.

My opinion is that parenting is incredibly difficult because children mirror how a parent is thinking and feeling because it comes out in the adults’ behaviour, words and relationship. Perhaps if we weren’t parents we could hide our emotions and fragilities a little more. Cultivating consistent and predictable relationships can be harder if a parent is experiencing inner turmoil which is why creating a place for what’s going on in you both can be so helpful.

Parenting is about parents having an emotional container for their stuff. Curating a life that can hold yourself is the best way to then hold a child.  My weeks are fairly structured with exercise, meeting friends, eating well, enjoying treats, alone time and dipping in and out of therapy when needed. This helps me to be that even presence within the kids’ lives.

Each parent taking responsibility for themselves first teaches children to be responsible for themselves too. You don’t have to be perfect. Putting time into your relationship as a couple is essential too. Don’t give all of yourself to your children, you are their solid foundation together.

One thing I’d like to add is that there is no such thing as good cop and bad cop. What’s most helpful for families are guides or rules that keep people safe. By this I mean physical safety and emotional safety. Talk with each other around words you’d like to use with your children, how you’d like to manage explosive moments and the logistics of the day. 

Have conversations with your husband about how you want your parenting to be. What are your hopes for your children?  How would you like your children to be? How do you want them to express their inner world and stand sure of themselves? When you’ve explored these questions you can then work out who you both need to be to make this happen. And we all need help from time to time to become that person. 

If you would like to explore how you respond to your child, you can book a psychotherapy session online or in person in my practice in Blarney, Cork. Booking a parenting consultation offers you a one hour appointment where we explore what’s going on and create an actionable plan which I then email to you after our session. If you’d like to explore your options, book your free 15 minute Calm Parenting Call. And let’s change what you find hard. You can also get your free 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting which will help to simplify your parenting.

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