If your child is struggling—socially, academically or behaviorally—he is probably getting a lot of your attention right now. So much attention, in fact, that you may feel like you have nothing left for yourself at the end of the day.

Working, taking your child to tutoring or counseling, running back to school to pick up his forgotten homework, and arguing with him daily about responsibilities can leave you depleted—physically, emotionally and spiritually.

In this article, I’m going to talk to you about three things your child needs from you right now, and they don’t involve giving him more attention. Rather, I’m going to suggest shifting more of that attention to you. Because, believe it or not, the more we focus on ourselves, the more our kids benefit, whether they are struggling a little or a lot.

1. Your Child Needs You to Grow Yourself Up

Growing yourself up is the only way your children can grow up. It means standing on your own two feet and managing your own “self” well. It’s the key to having your kids learn how to stand on their own. If we constantly manage them instead of ourselves, then they learn to rely on our two feet instead of their own. And no one ends up being a real grown up. We are all just leaning on each other to be able to stand tall.Think of it this way. When your kids are young,you help them to learn to tie their shoes. But once they have mastered that skill,you have to get busy tying your own shoes well and let them struggle to tie their own.

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This applies to almost everything in their lives. For example, if your child once again forgets his homework in his locker, you can help him to grow up by remaining a grown up yourself. The grown up parent calmly asks the child how he plans to manage this situation and then she gets on with her day. The grown up parent does not anxiously run back to school to rescue him by getting him the books, nor does she lecture, scold or punish. She manages her own anxiety about her child’s lack of responsibility and allows him the space to solve his own problems. This way she does not interfere with his development or her own. It is the way her child can learn responsibility.

2. Your Child Needs You to Focus on Your Adult Relationships

Managing your “self” means spending less time worrying about your child’s latest crisis and more time focusing on your adult relationships. If you fall into the pattern of making your child your primary focus, it can actually prevent the development of healthy family relationships. Here’s how this plays out in families all the time. See if it sounds familiar.Mom and Dad both work 10+ hours a day. Business hasn’t been good for the last year at Dad’s workplace, and he’s constantly stressed. Mom has started putting in extra hours on the weekends when she can. She’s painfully aware that she never has enough time for herself. She’s also angry and upset that her husband doesn’t make time for her anymore. Instead of addressing that with her husband because that can be difficult, without even being aware of it, she over-focuses on her child.

Her child provides a natural place for Mom to put her focus. It’s easier than dealing with the problem. Now we have a triangle. Having a third person diverts the anxiety away from the issues between her and her husband. It places it onto her child and they never really resolve their issues as a couple. This might serve to stabilize the marriage (for a while), but it ultimately burdens the child because he takes on the unresolved parental anxiety. Over time, the child gets too much attention and the marriage (or adult relationship) gets way too little, taking a toll on both the child and the marriage.

The fact is that the more you invest in growing your own self up and maturing your adult relationships, particularly your marriage, the more your child will reap the benefits from you as parents. Remember: the only way your child learns what it means to be a grown up is by watching and living with parents who are grown ups. Watching you care for yourself helps your child learn how to care for herself and make herself a healthy priority. She learns how to be a good marriage partner, a good parent and a person who manages herself well. These things cannot be taught; a child needs to see and live with parents who live it.

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Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for your child’s emotional and physical needs. It just means your child needs you to balance the amount of energy and investment you’re putting into her with what your putting into yourself.

3. Your Child Needs You to Not “Depend” on Him or Her

We all want our kids to be successful and behave well. But if we rely on their success and good behavior to help us feel valued and affirmed, we become dependent on their achievements for our own validation. We have to allow our kids to be kids. Whether they’re two-year-olds, 10-year-olds or 25-year-olds, we have to allow them to make mistakes, fail, falter and find their own way. Imagine the dad who needs his son to be the super star soccer player. When Dad needs that success, he’s doing more than sharing in the glory; he’s reflecting off his son’s glory. Often, the child feels the pressure of this expectation and either tries to please his dad or gives up the sport altogether even though he loves it. The pressure is just too much. Dad would do better if he joined his own soccer team and competed to be a top performer, if that’s important to him.

We have to find our own sense of worth, affirmation and balance—apart from our children—so we don’t burden them with our neediness.

Conclusion

Taking good care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually is what your kids most need from you now and always. When you grow yourself up, they will feel free to grow themselves up. Then, an open and healthy relationship can result.

Take some time and think about five ways that you can better care for your self this month and every month moving forward. Your kids will appreciate it. And so will you.

About

For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Comments (5)
  • BurcuOzdemir

    In section one , forgetting the homework at school locker is not a good example. If a child forgets homework at school locker I will drive and get it back, any other way will be cruel. I am a grown up I forget things all the time. I forget myMore folder at work that I need to work on. I drive back and get it. A child can not drive herself.
    what I would not do is lie to the teacher next day and tell the teacher she can not do her homework because she was sick or there was a emergency in family.
    If she forgot it and tell me she needs a ride to go and pick it up I will drive her , I may complain it is inconvenient and she needs to be more carefull but I am not going to leave her out there anxious ,and  abondended for something so easily fixable . I will not hold her to a standart ,I myself do not meet in my life. By the way I am quiet sucessfull in life I have always been forgetfull.

    • Bimpy

      BurcuOzdemir  I would do that one time...if it is a continuous battle I would stop, kid needs to learn to be responsible for their stuff.
      The battle at our house is, he rarely does any homework so when he makes any kind of effort I feel like I should doMore anything I can do to help him.

  • Bimpy

    I needed this today. Sometimes I allow my child's moods and problems ruin my mood. Not only does this make me less effective at work and cause relationship issues but it also makes me a less effective parent.
    Sometimes my partner it not a great parent to our boy. ThenMore his behavior gets in the way of our relationship even more as I try to protect him from verbal abuse while I maintain a relationship and work together.
    He loves this fact by the way. getting us mad at each other instead of him is one of his skills.
    We are aware now, and working on it. that is something.

  • Filu

    It's hard to model good adult relationships when you are a single parent not in touch with the other parent, though. When there are just two of you in the house especially. I try hard to make sure we entertain regularly, so my boy sees adults in their own contextMore and how we interact, but as far as he is concerned, he is my equal and with his (admittedly high functioning) autism, it is really hard to normalise things for him. Any ideas?

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Filu
      Being a single parent can present some unique challenges, such
      as how to role model  adult relationships. It sounds like you are finding
      ways to model for your son adults interacting appropriately. I think the issue
      of your son seeing himself as your equal may not be completely linked with the
      lack ofMore continuous adult interactions. As James Lehman explains in his article http://www.empoweringparents.com/Your-Child-is-Not...,
      too often as parents we treat our child more as a friend than as someone we
      have authority over.  And, while it’s OK to act friendly towards your
      child, when the lines of authority become blurred in this way, the child often
      does view himself as the parent’s equal. Another article you may find helpful
      for helping to establish clear boundaries is http://www.empoweringparents.com/why-you-cant-be-y.... It would also be a
      good idea to touch base with his treatment team or care provider. There can be a lot of variability in how Spectrum
      Disorders present, so, it is going to be most beneficial to work on developing
      specific action plans with someone who is familiar with your son. We appreciate
      you writing in and sharing your story. Be sure to check back and let us know how
      things are going. Take care.

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