It can be a tough gig being a working parent, especially given the additional challenges that Covid19 presents us with. Some recurring themes in my conversations with working parents include self-criticism, overwhelm, stress and meeting others’ needs, to name but a few. Viewing these themes through a more compassionate lens can be helpful.

This is a guest post from Nic Willcocks, Professional & Personal Development coach and facilitator, and coach in residence for Women in innovation.

“It can be a tough gig being a working parent, especially given the additional challenges that Covid19 presents us with. Some recurring themes in my conversations with working parents include self-criticism, overwhelm, stress and meeting others’ needs, to name but a few. Viewing these themes through a more compassionate lens can be helpful.”

 

Celebrate Success

We are not always good at acknowledging what is going well. Hardly surprising: our brains have a bias towards negativity as a primitive safety mechanism. But research shows that noticing positives can help to develop confidence, motivation and resilience.

We can begin to reframe that self-critical voice and challenge our assumptions. And, given that our children ‘learn us’, we can role model the affirming power of noticing the good stuff.

What have been your big and small achievements and successes as you have navigated the challenges brought by the pandemic? What can you do to celebrate your successes?

Choices and Compromises

Managing overwhelming demands and expectations generated by work, family life or ourselves is not for the faint hearted.

We can go a long way to addressing this by creating boundaries, making choices that work for us and our families, accepting inevitable compromises and believing that ‘good enough’ is exactly that.

Some honest, robust self-reflection can help too:

  • Whose demands and expectations are these?
  • Do they work for me and my family?
  • How can I reset or challenge them?
  • What can I control and influence?
  • What can I let go of?
  • If I say yes to something, what am I saying no to?

Thinking well to help manage stress

For the brain to work at its best, all the different parts need to work in harmony.  When our unique stress container overflows, our thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) weakens, whereas the stress chemicals adrenaline and cortisol strengthen primitive brain systems (limbic system) ready to respond quickly to save us. When the limbic system is in control, our ability to think, listen and focus is impaired. We are in survival mode. This is normal. And even knowing that can soothe your stress response.

Thankfully we can do a lot to manage the limbic system so the whole brain works well together. Recognising stress triggers, practicing a healthy lifestyle (rest, relaxation good food and exercise), talking things over with a trusted listener: all these will help. This enables us to manage our emotional reactions and apply some quality pre frontal cortex thinking to whatever challenges we may face.

By the way – it’s worth knowing that the pre frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until we’re 25. This could be useful to know if you are locking horns with your combative teenager!

Development needs of children

Mia Kelmer Pringle identified four significant emotional development needs of children: Love and security, praise and recognition, new experiences and appropriate responsibility. In parent coaching groups we invite participants to reflect on how they are meeting their children’s needs. It generates laughter, shared stories and a sense of relief: “Phew, I am doing better than I thought!” – followed by ideas exchanged about what responsibility and new experiences look like for different aged children.

And what of your needs as a parent?

Are you getting enough love and security, praise and recognition, new experiences and appropriate responsibility?

What do you need to do right now to make sure your needs are met too?

We don’t always get everything right as parents. But we should be kind to ourselves. Phillipa Perry (‘The book you wish your parents had read and will be glad they did’ ) talks about the concept of ‘rupture and repair’. We all make mistakes – at home and work. Ruptures happen. It’s normal. What matters is that with humility, in our parental and working lives, we seek to repair the rupture. By being accountable, taking responsibility, saying sorry, building bridges we become bold and positive role models for our children.

In the Japanese art of Kintsugi, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history and adds to its beauty and value. A final question then:  how would it be to use this as a metaphor for life as a working parent?  Instead of being self critical, how about acknowledging that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have, that you are good enough and the twists and turns all contribute beautifully to the rich family history you are creating?

Watch the full KTN Working Parents webinar recording below!

In June 2020, the Women in Innovation Programme awarded 18 women with monthly pro bono coaching sessions. Due to the success of the pilot programme, the coaching team have agreed to an ongoing special coaching package of 33% off their normal rates for a limited number of women within the Women in Innovation community. Find out more here.

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