The parent may have approached you with one or two goals, however in-session a different set of issues can arise. For this reason I find it best to keep an open mind, absorb the pre-meeting questionnaire but also stay flexible and aware to what else they will bring.
What can come from these sessions is the simple human-ness of being a parent. No matter your professional profile or position, we are all looking for the clearest sailing we can; ultimately needing to accept that there is no right way, no universal law that needs to be followed. Have you noticed that in parenting we are all doing the best we can? One of my buzz phrases at the moment is by A L Williams: ‘All you can do is all you can do but all you can do is good enough’. Sometimes we have to ease up on ourselves, especially when at its most challenging. It can be difficult to think that this is only a hard five minutes, not that the whole day has been a disaster.
What’s the single best advice you would give a new father?
A simple question was posted on a parenting forum recently, it asked: What’s the single best advice you would give a new father? I read through the comments and replies and they were all great and appropriate: be fully there for your children; support and love your wife; make the most of the time with your children; be patient (this last one was quite popular). My fingers hovered over the keyboard as I tried to think what one bit of advice I could offer – this is after all what I do. And truth be told, it was challenging to come up with one thing that could make the most difference for a new dad.
You might like to read this about staying present with your kids
All of the comments were spot on, and that was the issue. They were all valid. There was no one single bit of advice that would trump all of it. My thoughts were: flexibility; patience; communication, empathy. All good. All relevant to parenting. Yet they couldn’t encompass enough, some over-arcing principle that would help. I reflected on all my clients and wondered what I could say that would apply to them, some theme that might emerge. I came up with this:
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your thoughts and worries about work, your partner. your child, the new family. At times it can feel as though it’s a struggle to come up for air. I would say when you notice this, simply recognise it, acknowledge it and accept it. What you then do is get clear on where you want these areas of your life to be.
Don’t assume that it’ll sort itself out. Often it won’t.
Check in to see whether you are inline or off course from this. From that you can develop a plan of how to take some action. My best bit of parenting advice is to not think, ‘It’s going to be ok, I just need to get through this bad patch’. Own the moment, acknowledge it’s not working. And then do something about it. Don’t assume that it’ll sort itself out. It often won’t. If you’re not happy about something, communicate it. First with yourself, then to your partner or support network.
It’ll be interesting to see what reactions there’ll be on the forum.
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.
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