It may be the understatement of the year to say this, but sometimes you just have to speak the truth: We are parenting in complex times.
The world seems to be moving forward at a rapid pace while simultaneously standing completely still. We are experiencing unprecedented social awareness and change, while ‘doing’ less, staying close to home, and distancing ourselves from others in ways most of us never could have imagined.
Most of us have faced a challenging year. Some of us have been inconvenienced, while others have been in full-blown crisis. But if you’re reading this, chances are we all have this in common: we want to make the best of these difficult times and set our kids (and ourselves) up for a lifetime of success.
Since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, I’ve spoken with hundreds (if not thousands) of parents of children, teens and young adults from all over the globe. I find that we have more in common than our differences.
Some families are thriving. As they’ve been forced to slow down, they find themselves enjoying time with each other. They’re letting go of some of the world’s more unrealistic expectations and reacquainting themselves with their own values and priorities. Introverts, who have been eager for the world to slow down and quiet the busy-ness of life, are finally recharged enough to support and connect with extroverted friends and family members. Individuals and families are learning to be with themselves, and with each other, in healthy new ways.
Other families are struggling mightily to manage their ‘new normal.’ Intensified family time with minimal breaks from each other (for either parents or kids) – and what seems like unending schooling from home -- is taking a toll. Uncertainty fuels anxious thoughts. Trying to meet unrealistic expectations is wearing on parents and kids, resulting in a world of “shoulds” that’s causing additional pressure, stress, and strained relationships. Parents are having trouble finding enough time for themselves to guide their families in healthy ways.
For the last several years I’ve been writing a book for parents, The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kids with ADHD, Anxiety, and More. Fortunately, according to early reviews, it’s quite helpful for anyone parenting in complex times! I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s arriving just when parents need it most.
Three Key Concepts to Parenting in Complex Times
So, while there are literally hundreds of concepts, strategies, tips, and tools throughout my new book, the following excerpts from The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kid are particularly useful for parenting in this modern world of uncertainty and unrest. They are designed to help you consider new ways of reframing old problems.
Problem: “This is Not what I Expected.”
Reframe: Up Until Now
When you see the world only through the lens of the challenges you’re facing, it narrows your perspective . . . which can limit your options. When you change your thinking, and shift your language, you’ll see new possibilities emerge. These three words can help you change your perspective and transform your life: Up Until Now.
There’s nothing you can change about anything that’s happened in your life, or your family’s life, up until now. School issues. Relationship dynamics. Arguments. You can’t change the realities of life in a pandemic, or the complications of schooling from home.
So consider this: Up until now, you did the best you could with the information you had available to you. You tried to get the resources you needed, followed the guidance and advice of friends, family and professionals, and did the best you could —even if it didn’t always get the results you hoped for.
Whatever happens this Fall, these three words can guide you to start fresh each day; they offer the opportunity to take on a new perspective and try again.
Problem: “I’ve Tried Everything, but Nothing Works.”
Reframe: Change Starts with You
Do you ever offer help to your kids in a way that seems to push them away? As if no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to figure out what you can do to help? More than likely, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s how. How we approach our kids, especially in these challenging times, influences their willingness to accept our help.
How you respond to these uncertain times can set the tone for how your child learns to handle and overcome life’s challenges moving forward. To change their behaviors, start by becoming aware of your approach as a parent.
Think about your interactions with your kid and how you typically respond to challenging circumstances. Do you tend to control? Or wait for things to be okay? Think about things you feel you’ve handled well. Can you identify your successes and your sweet spots? Give yourself credit for those successes! Successes are where your best solutions are hidden. You may notice things you feel you’re doing wrong, and that’s okay, too. Remember “Up Until Now,” and return your focus to the successes.
As you read this, it’s possible you’ll feel a little hopeless or worried because you and your coparent aren’t on the same page and the world feels so unsettled. I get that. It’s always worth working toward the goal of collaborative parenting. But I want to say this clearly: it only takes one parent to turn the ship. You have a unique, individual relationship with your child, no matter who else is involved. You can create a strong relationship that supports your child, even if your coparent is not (yet) on board. The bottom line to effective parenting in complex times is simple: change starts with you.
Problem: “I Just Want Some Peace”
Reframe: Parent Like a Coach
In my 40s I started coach training with the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI). Within hours, I was hooked; within weeks, communication with my family improved dramatically. Just over a dozen years later, in a 2019 interview in Flaunt Magazine, my eldest brought me to tears with their appreciation for what my coach approach gave them:
“Well, my parents are both life coaches. It started when I was about 12, and it’s been beautiful to watch them evolve, and watch them grow and learn. Coaching has changed our entire family. Once they became coaches, all their time was dedicated to telling people, ‘Follow your dreams, do what you need to do, do what’s right for you, and take care of yourself.’ They couldn’t exactly tell me something different, and, fortunately, they realized that. So, all the work that they were doing with other people, they extended to me.”
Parenting with a coach approach is all about trusting yourself, listening to your instincts and your heart, and following your child’s lead by playing to their strengths. You know your child better than anyone. When necessary, especially in a global pandemic, give yourself permission to ignore the experts and be the parent your child needs you to be.
Yes, we are parenting in complex times. Uncertain times. Even unstable times. But as parents, we can hold our compass steady and guide ourselves and our kids to success by leaning into a new paradigm, what I call a coach approach to parenting. It doesn’t solve people’s problems; it teaches you a foolproof method for problem solving. And these days, that’s what you want to teach your kids more than anything – how to navigate life’s uncertainties with confidence and calm.