Some parents worry that having problems isn’t “normal”.
But parenting isn’t a competition. Some parents will struggle more than others to manage their child’s behaviour, and all may need support from time to time. This usually depends on things like the child’s temperament, the parents’ own childhood experiences, and parenting style – in other words, it has nothing to do with being “good” or “bad” parents, and it’s important to let go of such language and ideas.
It’s also increasingly “normal” these days for parents to feel stressed and anxious. This can be made worse by factors such as financial strain, relationship difficulties, trouble balancing work and family life or lack of support (for example, if you’re living a long way from extended family or have just moved to a new area and don’t have good friends nearby). None of this helps create happy and harmonious family relationships and positive parenting. We need to give parents specific skills and strategies to help them cope.
GETTING IN EARLY
If we just leave everyone to cope with parenting challenges on their own, can we automatically expect every kid to develop into a healthy, happy, productive citizen? What about parents of kids who we can already see, from as young as two or three, are struggling with self-control? Do we just wait for the problems to magically disappear?
International studies are now pointing to what tends to happen when behavioural and mental health issues in children go unchecked. For example, The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study traced the lives of more than 1000 babies born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972, and found that children with poor self-control were, as adults, more likely to have problems with physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending. Similarly, this article in the New York Times looks at the evidence that the earlier we can start supporting parents, the better.
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
There’s no need for parents to go it alone. They can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge we now have about child behaviour and development. By accessing evidence-based parenting support, parents can pick up skills and strategies that will help them navigate the challenges of toddlerhood, early childhood, the school years and adolescence.
In other words, the new normal shouldn’t include struggling on behind closed doors.