5 mindset shifts to becoming an empowered parent

“It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself” - Joyce Maynard 


Parenting is an adventure and as with any adventure, there are beautiful, awe-inspiring moments and hairy and heart-breaking ones. Some days, let’s be honest, it is all of that in the first ten minutes. Does anyone relate?

It’s also always a juggle to some extent, of time and also everyone’s needs. When I struggle to keep up with it, I break it down.

What are my 5 top tips for bringing that balance back?

The big picture 

Every time you look back on a situation and wish you’d handled it differently, it can feel like nothing else that happened that day matters. Long after the kids are happily playing (or bickering!) again, you’re torturing yourself playing that moment back.

Go back to basics here. Are they safe? Are they loved? Remember to look at the overall and give yourself grace for being a human being with your own emotions and challenges. 

It’s also important to step back and recognise what you can and can’t change. The moment has passed but you can still repair it. Say sorry and explain that you were busy or tired. 

Showing your children vulnerability teaches them that it’s OK for them to make mistakes. Offering them the respect of an apology acknowledges the importance of their feelings as the autonomous little people they are.

Once you’ve done all this, give yourself permission to let it go and try not to file it in your ‘things I regret’ box. You are not alone. We all have those moments but once we’ve learned the lesson from them, our time and energy are much better spent in the present with our children - they are very rarely still back there with you. 

Fill your cup

We hear this a lot, but are we actually doing it? Sometimes we do it so little for so long that we forget what it is that gives us joy as the person we are and not just the parent. 

One way in is to ask yourself what you loved doing before you had your little ones. Is there some space for that now or for something like it? If not, listen to the reasons why and explore if they are really barriers. 

Is it that you don’t have the time anymore or is it really that you are afraid you’ve forgotten the skill, or that you don’t feel confident in that environment? Whatever the honest answer, it’s all okay. You can only make the choice you want to make if you really understand why it hasn’t happened yet. 

If the barrier really is time or means - is there something else that could give you that boost of rest and novelty? Home date night, a walk somewhere new, lunch with a friend. If nothing comes to mind maybe ask yourself what kind of things make you smile and feel peaceful. You can build from there. 

Creating new habits is always available to us, however small the space for them, and there is something powerful about offering yourself permission to spend a little of your time and effort on yourself (just don’t let it turn into another stick to beat yourself with!)

Avoid the comparison game

I know this is something I will find myself saying a lot to my children. Or maybe by the time they’re my age, they will have perfectly navigated the shiny social media world of comparison and be laughing at how any of us ever found it tricky. 

I will always tell them not to compare themselves to anyone else because of how clearly I can see the uniqueness that they bring. My gentle, kind son and my bright and full-of-life little girl. I never want to see them dull something about themselves to be like someone else, it would be such a shame. That’s true of you too. 

For me, it’s also been very important to look for support and not a competition among friends. There is nothing like feeling completely safe with a friend - even with the things you’re not proud of - and the alternative is just exhausting, no one wins. Side note, this works both ways. If someone is struggling try to have compassion rather than judgement and help where you can. None of us know what’s around the next corner. 

There is no one way to do anything and what we look for, we will see. There will always be someone who is ‘doing better’ than us at the things that poke our insecurities but we get to choose where we shine the spotlight. What do you do brilliantly? What qualities do people compliment you on? What are you proud of as a parent? By owning our achievements we also encourage our children to value theirs. 

Trust yourself

Isn’t it funny how everyone has an opinion? Well-meaning (mostly!) and sometimes welcome, but equally sometimes striking the wrong note… That can sting, especially when you’re tearing your hair out over something and trying your best. 

I spent some time looking for the ‘right’ way and I found that often, there is only your way and someone else’s. Remember, no one has your window on this. You are the expert on your family and other people’s opinions are none of your business. Advice can be absolute gold and it’s worth remembering that there is such a thing as being so defensive that we lose valuable help, but you can feel the difference. 

When you’re not sure see if you can slow down and connect with yourself, see if you can trust what you hear when you listen to your instinct. It can be really important to give your intuition the floor sometimes if you have a habit of taking a poll from everyone before you make a decision.

Mindfulness techniques can be helpful here if you struggle to hear that little voice. Once you have found it you’ll find that it rarely steers you wrong. 

Own your issues 

Gulp. Is there anything more like a mirror for the things we haven’t dealt with than our children? Instead of seeing that as terrifying though, it might just be a gift. 

This, for me, is probably the most important thing of all and it’s all about balance. There is no need to beat yourself up on the days when your children drive you nuts, when you react with anger when you feel hurt or let down. It also isn’t your children’s responsibility to regulate how you feel, 

So much of what we believe about parenting comes from our own experiences in early life and amazingly, our beliefs can directly contradict what we think. That is because they go deeper than we can consciously access a lot of the time. Challenges can be an opportunity to take responsibility, to look for your part in the interaction and heal whatever is behind it. The opposite of taking responsibility is laying blame, and whoever's door it lands at, it can erode self-esteem and be the catalyst for strain in relationships you want to protect. 

You will often find that as you work through the fear of exploring and then the exploring itself, that you become more comfortable with your emotions and experience fewer triggers to the difficult feelings you started with. This is the ultimate freedom for me and your children can see it. 

If you are able to understand better why you behave in ways you would rather not, you have more power to change them. You have choices about how you respond when you are suddenly angry or upset and by making different ones you show your children that change is always possible. It becomes much easier to accept their emotions and help them work through them too. Owning your issues can be difficult and painful but it does mean that they can stop with you. 

Go gently here as always and remember you are never alone. Not one of us is free of triggers but we can see a true difference when we start to heal. 

If you find negative patterns in your relationships with your children, look for where you might have seen them before. Seek help when you need to and remember that every time you choose to take responsibility, it is the biggest gift you can offer them. 

So, soak up those highs and breathe through the lows. Remember this moment will pass however it is. And you are not missing a trick if you don’t have all the answers, none of us do. Chances are if you are wondering about it, you're doing an amazing job. I challenge you to do something, anything, today that is just for you. 

If you want to feel empowered and find freedom from negative patterns with yourself or your children, feel free to book a free, no-obligation chat with me

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Therapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chester CH2 & Wrexham LL12
Written by Jess Wilkins-Cooke, EFT & Mindfulness Practitioner supporting anxiety & trauma
Chester CH2 & Wrexham LL12

Jess is an accredited EFT Practitioner offering virtual sessions working with a wide range of issues including anxiety, trauma and confidence. Jess is the founder of wellbeing community Not a Perfect Parent and specialises in sessions for parents, adoptive parents and adult children exploring parental relationships. Book a free consultation.

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