Becoming a parent is considered to be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. You often embark on this new adventure with great hopes and expectations about what life will be like as you raise your children.
Sometimes, however, the path into parenthood can surprise you. It can feel like you are on a winding road of emotions ranging from satisfaction and joy to some not-so pleasant feelings like anxiety and frustration.
Parenting is a Journey
Whenever you embark on something new, be it baby, job, vacation, whatever – your thoughts become filled with images about what life will be like.
You create these pictures and ideas based on your own experiences growing up, the media, your family and cultural values, your own ideals, and your observations of friends’ experiences.
Then as you enter and live through these new stages, you are faced with the job of reconciling all of your images of what might have been with the realities of what is. Parenting is about this reconciliation.
As your children go through every new phase of development, from crawling to walking, from preschool to kindergarten, from elementary age to adolescence, from entering college and beyond, you may compare the many images of what you thought that phase would be like to the way it actually is.
Often, you use these images to measure your successes and failures as a parent.
- Sometimes you find that life is much better than you could have imagined or that reality matches your image; this brings you feelings of contentment and accomplishment.
- But if the reality does not live up to your image, it can bring you sadness and feelings of loss, disappointment, or anger. You can feel like somehow you are doing something wrong.
You are Growing Too
It is important to remember that as you watch your children grow and develop, you too are growing and developing. You may feel as though you are constantly redefining your role as nurturer, disciplinarian, and teacher.
One thing that can help to make your journey through parenthood less rocky is learning to establish more realistic expectations. This does not mean, however, that you should lower your standards.
Rather, you should learn to understand who your children are and what they are capable of doing. This includes taking into consideration all that is unique about them in terms of temperament and maturity as well as what is developmentally normal for a particular age and stage.
You can then use that information to decide how to best nurture and discipline and how much to challenge each child.
Establish Realistic Expectations
Learning to set realistic expectations is an important task involved in raising children. The better you understand your children and yourself, the fewer disappointments you may face as your children grow.
- Learn about typical behaviors children exhibit as they grow through different ages and stages.
- Learn to understand your children’s unique temperaments and personalities.
- Talk and listen to other parents who have had similar experiences and worked on similar issues.
- Anticipate and use forethought to prepare for challenging situations with your children.
Recognize that people do form images of upcoming stages in their parenting journey, and realize that some of these pictures may not be met in reality. Without blaming yourself or your child for a difference between image and reality, you can work toward accepting the actualities of your life with your particular child.
When you do that, you are in a much stronger position to cope with the discrepancies and to discover the exhilarating rewards of parenting and building positive relationships with your children as they are.
By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator
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