Tolerance and Parenting

toleranceThe word tolerance keeps coming up when talking with parents.  Tolerance for the whole thing.  Tolerance for the trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, tolerance for the grief of miscarriage, the lack of sleep, unwell children, the repetitiveness, the word no and tolerance for those difficult moments and days.  Tolerance for the mind boggling and often unhelpful systems when fighting for support for children.  Then enter the teenage years and tolerance moves to a different level.  Prior to parenthood no one can ever explain the demands of being a parent, always being needed both physically and emotionally and how to cope with this. 

Then there is tolerance towards others – of other parents, their children and respecting how they choose to raise their family.  And there is tolerance for ourselves and difficulties relating to our personal situation – as a single parent, a bereaved parent, a divorced parent, a surrogate parent, a gay parent, adoptee parent and tolerance for partners too.  Tolerating our own responses to our children is so important too.  Allowing ourselves to not get it right first time (whatever right is) and not getting caught up in loops of guilt and shame. 

But why is tolerance so important?  When we tolerate our children’s behaviour, learning how to gently guide them through difficult feelings and situations, we let them know that they are safe, loved and validated.  When this happens we are respecting their difficulties and letting them know that whatever life brings them, we are here. We can handle it with them.  Even when things may seem so dark.

And how can we encourage tolerance to come onboard when we need it?  Well it’s hard.  We have lots of layers of emotions to sift through before we can be tolerant.  The main culprits in these layers are anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, shame and fear.  All tricky emotions and when they surface encourage us to act in ways that can be frightening to ourselves and our children.  We know that this is not our fault as we have a tricky brain.  But we can take responsibility for it.  Our brain is wired for difficult emotions to come on board first, it’s what helps us detect threat.  And the stressors and demands of parenting are so significant that we can feel under threat a lot of the time.  With this wisdom we can make a conscious effort to develop and deepen our tolerance.  We can choose something different and move from threat towards something more helpful.  When we tolerate we are moving towards accepting; ourselves and others.

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