This past Christmas the kids sweet-talked me into taking them ice skating. I wasn’t sure where the rink was so I looked it up on Google Maps and printed out the directions. As we were driving I blurted out to no one in particular that we were looking for a particular intersection.
A voice from the back of the car said, “Dad, you passed it two blocks ago.”
“How do you know I passed it? We’ve never been to this part of town.”
“Uh, I can read.”
For some reason my daughter’s age was cemented in my mind. I thought she was still largely dependent on me for everything. Having her tell me that I missed our destination changed how I viewed her and how I viewed myself.
Last week we spoke with Dr. Fran Walfish a psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child, about the challenges of raising kids.
1. How do you deal with separation anxiety?
FW: Separation anxiety comes in two forms. One, either parent is over attached and does not nurture the separation process. Or two, mom or dad is “there” but isn’t engaged with the child so he or she feels emptiness. Mom needs to know she is okay without her baby and the child needs to know he or she is okay without mom.
2. How do you learn to pick your battles when it comes to food?
FW: Never fight with your kids about what goes into their bodies or what comes out. I cannot tell you how many parents get stuck in two developmentally crucial areas – eating and pooping. (That’s why) girls get stuck with eating disorders and the boys get stuck in the pooping disorders. They are both anxiety based but quickly become control issues where the kid feels over controlled by the parent and, in the end, those are two body function control areas that the parent cannot win.
3. How do you manage your own fatigue?
FW: Be sure to nourish and fortify yourself with individual time. Take a walk, listen to music, sit with your feet up and read a magazine. Do whatever makes you feel good and nourishes you. Get enough sleep, eat well, and have a confidant to talk to who will listen empathically without judgment. You need a person to talk to also.
4. How do you strike a balance between your child’s personality and your own expectations?
FW: Every child is an individual and unique and parents need to adjust their expectations to each child’s capacity. For instance, if you have a kid with learning disabilities and fine motor weakness, your expectation of him doing handwriting work may be different from one of the kids who may not have the same weakness. You’ve got to adjust. Don’t expect your kid to do the adjusting, it’s the parent who needs to do the adjusting first and then your child will come to you to meet you in the middle.
5. Being a parent is, perhaps, the most difficult job in the world. Why do we do this?
FW: In the unconscious mind there’s probably some thought about survival of the species. I really think, though, most people want to turn the clock around and “do it right this time.” They are trying to correct the wrongs that were done to them and their parents. Sadly they either unconsciously repeat it without having walked that self-examination path or they do gorgeously – the mistakes that were done to them they fix – but they make new ones that they regret. The answer to doing it right is a lot of work on one’s self. The better we know ourselves the better we can impart clearer messages to children.
Check out Part 1 of the interview HERE.