• Dr. Matt Zakreski

This is so hard... AND I'm a good parent

Updated: Feb 16

**original post alert**

I often say that therapy is the process of learning to hold two different thoughts in your head at the same time. For example, if I am a smart student but I fail a test, I could say, "I know that I'm smart and I am also disappointed in my grade."

The more stressed out we are, the harder it is to hold two thoughts in our head. We move to an extreme, black or white style of thinking. To continue the example above, "I am stupid because I failed a test." Not only are extremes unhelpful, but they exhaust us because our brains end up trying to argue with those extreme thoughts.

So, why bring this up today?

Today is, for many people, the day that their kids go back to school after the winter break. (For those of you who have one more day to go, you have my support... And my sympathy). And, if you're anything like me, this is the end of a very long period of time where you've been with your children with little structure and LOTS of stimulation.

One of the things that I've struggled with a lot as a parent has been the idea that I SHOULD be good at this. After all, I am a child psychologist, right? But the fact of the matter is that raising children is hard. Really hard. Struggling is a feature, not a bug.

When we think about what kids need to feel and do better, the list would include: routine, structure, outside time, and a moderate amount of stimulation. Then think about the holidays:

1). Chaotic schedule 2). Lots of stimulation: new toys, visitors, lots of different food, alcohol, etc. 3). No school (or homeschool) and therefore none of the structure it provides 4). Lots of time inside due to the weather and darkness and obligations

So yeah it makes sense that our kids will be off their game. But here's the tricky part: most of our kids will SHOW that, but they won't necessarily tell us that. Either they lack the insight or they lack the language or they lack the trust, or maybe it's as simple as they didn't get a minute to say anything. Regardless, they act out and we, as parents, have to pick up the pieces.

Heres where the two thoughts part comes in. All of the same stressors that take place over the holidays also impact parents. We are off our routines and running on empty, in no small part because our kids are being more than we are usually handling. And when we are stressed, we struggle, and then black and white thinking comes in:. "I'm struggling, so I'm a bad parent."

That's not true, my friends. All parents struggle. No one has this totally down.

Over the past ten days, I've been trying (with intermittent success) to say:. "This is so hard... And I'm a good parent.". When you allow both thoughts to be true, you give yourself more grace and compassion. When you can zoom out to see the context (I.e., the environmental factors I mentioned above), you see that there are good reasons for the struggle.

So you're a good person and a good parent. If you struggled this week, you're still good at this. If you were desperate to get the kids out the door this morning (and seriously, how hard was THAT today????), You're still good at this. If you're seeing these statements and feeling guilty for thinking them, guess what?

You're still a good parent.

Struggling only means that what we are doing is hard. Don't let your brain create a false narrative.

Now pour yourself an extra large coffee, friends. Because now we have to go back to work, too.

#drmatt #parenting #neurodiversity #sensoryoverload #compassion #parentlife #ilovemykids

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