We have set new goals at the beginning of a new year since ancient times. I
have read that the ancient Babylonians, 4000 years ago are believed to have been the the first people to make New Year’s resolutions and then the Romans made promises of good conduct to the God Janus, for the following year.
It is common to set personal intentions around Diet, Alcohol, Weight, Travel, Career or Business, Education, Hobbies, Self Help and Bad Habits, but do you consider setting any intentions regarding your family life, and specifically your Parenting? As a Family Relationship Coach, my role is to help Parents identify what the main problems are that are causing unease and conflict within the family and set goals that will overcome those obstacles to family harmony, which lead to much more family functionality. Family functionality is a family where everyone’s needs are met and are balanced.
Does it feel good to live in you family right now? Do you all respect each other, and are behaviours in accordance with your values? Are you living with people you like and trust and who like and trust you? Are you spending enough time with each other? Do you enjoy each other’s company?
Virginia Satir said that “Knowledge is important for people making, it’s not just about instinct and intent”. We all know, or have found out that Parenting is one of the most complicated jobs on earth, that doesn’t come with a training manual. Part of the reason it’s complicated is because we often get stuck, stuck in loops of un-productive behaviour, stuck in same old ways and stuck in peas in pod type parenting, which doesn’t acknowledge identity.
This is a guide to help you set your Parenting intentions for the year . I’ve tried to keep it simple and straight to the point, being mindful that January opens the floodgate of articles of “new year, new you”! But also because too often in our frantic worlds of trying to fit it all in, the simplest and core foundations get lost or forgotten.
A great starting point to set your intentions is to review what the problems have been.
” Problems will always be with us. The problem is not the problem; the problem is in the way people cope. When we learn to cope differently, we deal with the problems differently and they become different.” (Virginia Satir)
For older children a positive way to tackle this is to hold a family meeting to set your 2019 Family Vision. This gives everyone a safe space to be honest, and if it is followed by something fun can be an enticement. Group rules can be set in advance to avoid confrontation. Some good questions to ask depending on the age of your children include:
- What went well in 2018?
- What was difficult?
- Are you all clear on what your family values are?
- Does everyone think that the boundaries are working?
- Ask your children what they would like to achieve this year for themselves and then ask them what support they need from you for this.
- What would you like to happen in your family this year?
- What will help you achieve more balance in juggling it all?
This type of meeting is a good time to remind children about established boundaries , why they are in place and the consequences if they are ignored. Re-define if some are no longer age appropriate. Can you introduce more responsibility to encourage independence?
If you have young children , a conversation with your partner could take place along the same lines.
Are the boundaries working ? If not, do you want less nagging, yelling, commanding? Do you want to Engage, not enrage? You can achieve this by choosing your battles in accordance with your values. Spend some time reflecting on what small stuff you can let go of. Can you practice more patience and flexibility? You can do this by employing more active listening and watching, watching for non-verbal cues to understand your child’s emotions. Matching or mirroring non-verbal cues instantly boosts connection as your child unconsciously experiences a deep acknowledgement.
Give Space and ownership around Emotions, which helps children understand that they are entitled to their feelings. By dismissing feelings by saying, “don’t be angry”, children don’t learn to trust their feelings and develop their own inner compass. Dismissing children’s feelings or trying to manage them is a classic sign of helicopter parenting, as is telling your child what they are feeling , encourage them to name it themselves.
Practice and teach resilience to help children understand that mistakes and failures can be overcome, and talk about what could be done differently next time to get the outcome they wanted.
Use discipline as a teaching opportunity, rather then relying on punishment to stop negative behaviour. Try to avoid time out’s by seeing the behaviour from your child’s point of view. Consider what is the positive intention of that behaviour, by doing so, this can help you help your child find another way to achieve his positive intention without the negative behaviour and invites gradual change. This stops children thinking of themselves as “mean” or “bad”.
Reflect on Communication styles. Can you choose more positive and temporal language when you speak to your children? and with smaller children encourage the words thank you wherever you can in order to start building an awareness of Gratitude . Acknowledge positive behaviour, through praising effort over achievement more than criticising the behaviour you don’t want. And sometimes if you don’t know what to say, don’t try, just hug it out instead.
Be mindful that the World is becoming more complex and the challenges our children face are much more complicated. Ask more questions instead of making judgements. Be open-minded where there is no conflict with your values.
Set a Consistent bedtime and bedtime routine, limiting screen time at least 1 hour before bed.
For teenagers set curfews for going out, which balance the need for a social life, but doesn’t interfere with sleep needs and demands of homework. Limit sleepovers to school holidays.
Put some boundaries in around screen time by creating device free zones around meal times and family time i.e when watching a film together. Keep phones out of bedrooms at night by creating a charging station downstairs.
Increase time outside for all the family. We can all become deficient in Vitamin D which can contribute to irritability and low mood.
Increase 1:1 time: Consider ways you can spend time with your child that is not interrupted. Spending time with each child, separate to family time, sends huge messages of love, whether it’s doing lego or a puzzle, or going for a milkshake. Is there a form of exercise you could do together? Mothers are much better at doing this generally. Encourage Fathers to do the same, this is so important for boys in particular.
Eat more Greens, even if you have to disguise them. Greens are massive weapons to fight the anxiety gremlins.
Make your home somewhere your children want to be: A safe place where they feel nurtured and want to bring their friends to.
I hope that by implementing some of these it will make your home somewhere you want to be too.