Overcome Parenting Anxiety in 3 Steps
In a previous post I describe why high achievers may struggle with aspects of parenting, I share here the techniques used to overcome this.
While these techniques maybe unconventional and offer no guidance on what your baby ‘should’ be doing, they do offer you rationale, confidence, belief and encourage an open mind to listen to not only your baby but your instinctual voice.
In my experience as a psychotherapist I have learnt that meaning is about the most important thing you can hold onto when mothering, this simple reassuring approach never leaves your side as a tool, not even at 3am. It might sound a little cliché to ask ‘what does it mean to you’ but really what does parenting mean to you?
Maybe until now you hadn’t given it much thought….without searching for life’s big answers, this simple approach can give you what you need to make parenting feel more manageable.
The meaning you apply to each experience day to day, and in response to your baby will influence how you feel. How you feel moment to moment will have a direct impact on your child, so the more conscious you are of this the more control you have over your emotions and how they impact you both.
These three steps to meaning can positively change how you parent.
To give you an example lets use the baby waking in the night for a feed. So baby wakes which pulls your attention – The FOCUS – then immediately there is THE MEANING you apply to this; I should be finishing my dinner, I should be watching my movie, I should be in bed, the baby shouldn’t be awake now, from these ‘applied meanings’ you will then react with an emotion having FEELINGS about what is going on. You may feel resentful, angry, impatient, maybe even a failure. These feelings determine your state of mind then your mood, and instantaneously you can feel crappy.
OR, baby could wake, and the meaning you apply is, its normal baby is awake, dinner can wait, my baby is solely dependant on me, everything I do is magnified in their world, soothing my baby is great for the immune system and brain development, I could go and watch the movie but I’m choosing to meet my babies needs. So how might you feel if you apply this meaning? Good about yourself? Relaxed,? Content with your choices? In control?
You might not be able to change the event but you can change how you react to it. Most parents will fight the event and try to change the situation, this only leads to frustration and disappointment. Through expanding your emotional intelligence you can avoid this detrimental approach. As baby doesn’t have the brain capacity to adapt or learn anything as complex as self soothing (this higher part of the brain required for such complexity isn’t online until two plus) surrendering to babies needs is not a failure but the willingness to adapt with flexibility and intuition. With this simple approach, you can change your state of mind, then your mood and most importantly how you feel.
Remarkably how you feel can change in an instant, it doesn’t have to take years in therapy, but you do need to continue to practice new habits to create long lasting positive effects. There is a simple ritual you can start to practice each day, preferably in the morning, not only will it change your state of mind in an instant you can imprint positive lasting effects.
The self care you provide to yourself isn’t benefitting only you, what a baby feels in the womb and in the early years really matters; her experience of you as a parent and her surroundings impacts brain development, it informs her view of the world , and it shapes her perception of herself for years to come.
Ultimately this is all about raising your emotional intelligence so your baby can reap the rewards.