(ONTARIO) From the heart, of course. But so many parent who have lots of heart still struggle with it. Take comfort in the fact that you are in the majority. –Alarge majority actually, at least in Canada and the U.S. Blame it on technologically focused society, hyper-mobility or the six-day corporate work week, for decades now (at a minimum) most of us have been growing up with overriding, child-parent ‘issues.’ That is: Most of us as parents have our own attachment
These are typically the big pieces, in how each of us manages the relationship, with each child we have. For most of us, our own uncertainties about ‘how to be’ just plain get in the way.
WHAT? ARE YOU SAYING WE’VE ALL BECOME SELF-ABSORBED PARENTS? No. It would be amazing if every one of us could always feel good about ourselves and about our child—and at the same time! But unless you’re among the fortunate few (and it has very little to do with economics) who have grown up feeling over-archingly secure and con-fident your-self, or you have done some very advanced personal growth, that often turns out to be one !@#$%^&*! challenge.
WHAT IS CO-REGULATION?
How we learn to handle the toughest times and how we figure them out, as a child-parent ‘team’ makes all the difference. How can two such unequal people truly be a team? That is the emotional genius of parental learning. We don’t have to be born to it, or be experts in anything, just to get there with ourown child. No honest parenting expert out there got to be so, without paying their dues. But for most of us, it takes time. And it’s trickier if child and parent happen to be ‘born different.’ Child and parent can have different, inborn temperaments (from the latin for colouring—as in tempera paint.) It’s quick, easy and enlightening to get a read on your own child’s temperament just by going to Prof. Sandee McClowry’s website at NYU’s School of Nursing:
You won’t have to give any identifying information and you’ll immediately get a parent-friendly, memorizable profile that looks like this, with X’s where your child’s four basic temperament factors stand. You’ll also strike a blow against the tyranny of psycho-logical tests that only clinicians can give and interpret.
–In truth, these tests are invaluable, when needed. But, as parents, many of us feel empowered when we realize psychologists do NOT have a monopoly on guided insight. There’s simply no need to keep all of it behind the jewelry counter. McClowry’s book, Understanding Your Child’s Unique Temperament helps us take next steps.
Bonding is much easier when child and parent both have the same, inborn, foundation layers of their personalities. But how many times have you heard a parent exclaim: “OMG, what is with Kid-2, here?— My first one was so easy!” (Or the exact opposite.) We simply come in different emotional flavours, right from the start.
OK, SO WHERE’S THE QUICK ‘N’ EASY PARENT TEMPERAMENT PROFILE?
Great idea! But our temperament gets overlain with other layers of our person-alities, throughout life: our own childhood bonds with either parent; our social learning with peers; and finally, what we each build on top of all that: our adult self-concept. Still, in our closest relationships, where we truly must be, or can’t avoid being our truest selves, our natural, inborn differences re-emerge. Stuff that our colleagues would never guess would push our hot buttons can be ridiculously easy for a family member to target if they’ve had too much stress (and for some reason, you seem to be part of it).
Now, none of us would like to admit it, but we can find ourselves doing the exact same thing with our own kids whenwe’ve had too much stress. That can confuse both childand parent. But as parents, we can learn to bridge that gap. When we do, we show our child: Not only can I comfort you when you’re scared; not only do I too recall having that kind of disgusted, overexcited or stunned feeling, buteven when I mess it up as your parent, I can still figure it out. (Or if you can’t, at least now you know what kind of help will actually help.)
Through co-regulation, we show our child that growing up never ends.Self-regulation is the magic of how kids can then keep building, more independently, on that.
Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc