When parenting feels lonely, it impacts your relationships
Hand in Hand Parenting's approach
to parenting by connection recognises the impact these things can have on your ability to connect well with your child. They can leave parents feeling judged. Feeling unsure how to handle a particular behavior. Prone to perfectionism and worry. Lonely and insecure.
But here's a positive.
This approach also holds the view that all of these hurts can be healed with the right attention and with time. Because humans are wired for connection, sharing your parenting experiences and hardships in a safe space, with a warm listener can have a soothing, uplifting and curing effect.
Parents return to parenting with renewed energy and positivity
This time can be deeply nourishing and reviving. Many times, parents come out of these moments of upsets and frustration, anger and sadness with new ideas. They are fuelled by new positivity, confidence and strength, and they can see a pathway forward.
If before they could see no way to deal with their children's endless sibling rivalry, after sharing their feelings of stuckness and impatience, they'll have ideas about how to resolve it.
If their children's challenging behaviors before left them tense and snapping at their child, after sharing, they feel able to tackle the behavior with a new lightness. With a mind to figuring out what could be driving the behavior and how to address the core need.
What stops this healing?
The one thing that can stop this healing, though, is what I think of as Parent Nemesis Number One.
Isolation means that we hold back from letting others into our hearts. It means we don't share how hard we find it when our child speaks to us disrespectfully, or how guilty we feel that we can't always give our kids our best selves, or how angry we get when our kids fight.
We don't allow others to see our vulnerabilities and our faults. And that means we don't see theirs. So we begin to think we are the only parent who has these issues.
When parents turn inwards, like this, it's hard to break free.
And it's circular. The more isolated a parent feels, the less they feel able to reach out. The less they feel able to share their feelings, ask for help, or seek comfort.
There's a simple way to overcome isolation when parenting feels lonely
Parenting by Connection offers a life changing tool to counter this sense of lonely isolation. Listening Partnerships are an agreement made by two parents to meet regularly.
The person listening makes a few important commitments – to listen with warmth and respect; to listen without judgement or advice; and not to refer back to what is said (with others or with the speaker).
This agreement provides a safe haven where you are free to offload your thoughts and feelings about areas of tension and stress. Having this uninterrupted time to mull over your own thoughts and ideas provides an avenue for your own intelligence to shine.
You speak for a pre-agreed time, and then you provide the same listening to your partner for the same amount of time.
Trust and respect between listeners builds over time, but this isn't a relationship that brings burdens or expectations – you won't need to send birthday cards, organise catch ups, or even engage in chit chat before your meetings.
This is a relationship set up with one purpose only—listening.
Having an opportunity to talk about the things that challenge us provides us with much needed support.
Listening to another parent's experiences helps to break down the sense of loneliness and isolation that pervades our lives as parents.
We learn that we aren't the only ones to have hard days, big feelings, and regrets.
Over time, our kinship with other parents grows. We realise in a very deep way that all parents want the best for their kids, and that all parents are doing their very best in each moment.
Parents feel energy and positivity return
As the feeling of loneliness and isolation slowly disintegrates, we are more free to use our intelligence to problem solve and lead well in our family.
You may experience very big shifts as you uncover burdens that you've been carrying and may have been unaware of. Or when you realise that one of your child's traits or behaviors stirs old, difficult memories or experiences.
Plus, you have time and space to connect these dots and realise how these past hurts impact your ability to parent how you would most prefer to.
Here's how it can work, from the book Listen: Five Ways To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges, Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.
“I was having a really hard time with my twelve-year-old. She and I could not see eye-to-eye at all. My listening partner invited me to talk about what it was like for me when I was twelve.
“That's the age I was when my Mom left us, and we were very poor. I had so much work I had to do!
“I cried many times about the shock and the very hard times we had. No wonder seeing my daughter have so much more than I had brings up a lot of feelings!
“In my listening time, I could say, “How dare you say that you don't have anything! I had nothing!” and cry and cry.
“I think that really helped me, because now when we're together, we have a lot of fun.
“She and I have playful ways to connect. I'm no longer screaming, “Why aren't you cleaning your room? Why are you complaining? You have everything!”
“Her life is so different than mine was at her age, and it wasn't her fault that I didn't have all the stuff that she has now.
“All I can do is wish the best for her, and hope that she will use what she has wisely.
“The most important thing is that the connection between is there. We go for walks; I get along with her so much better now than when I wasn't working on my feelings about when I was twelve years old.”
You'll enjoy parenting, and it'll feel easier
You can see here that even deep, entrenched experiences can be healed through this one simple tool. How this mom was able to find more freedom for herself and her child once she had space to process her feelings.
Life becomes a little easier to handle, making relationships with your children less stressful.
Listening Partnerships can sound daunting at first… but many thousands of people around the world use this concept every day. Every one of them reaps the rewards in terms of self-care and an improvement in family life. They are absolutely worth a try!
Ready to get started? Purchase this guide to Listening Partnerships and get all you need to begin, or to deep-dive the tool, buy the Hand in Hand class
Building a Listening Partnership.
You can also reach out to me to hear about my classes and consultations which include practice with Listening Partnerships. I can't wait to guide you on this unique and special journey.
Belynda originally published this post here on her blog, Parenting By Connection with Belynda Smith.