Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Parent = Happy Child

The flight attendant says, "If the cabin should lose pressure, put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then place one on your child." And, so it is with parenting. Parents need time to themselves, to replenish their energy. This time away makes them better parents, better able to nurture their children and better able to deal with the difficult job of parenting. The families I work with have often adopted traumatized children who have just moved in. And, just like new parents bringing home a baby from the hospital, they often don't think about leaving their new children with anyone else for any length of time. Weeks and months go by and you can see the energy and enthusiasm draining away as exhaustion sets in. Dealing with the difficult behaviors of children who have lived with multiple families can test the most experienced parents. Parents who are focused on building the bonds of attachment with their new children feel guilty leaving their children and often have difficulty finding friends and family members who can handle their kids. That's why it's one of the first things I suggest to my families. "Go on a date. Leave the kids." This kind of grown up time out also teaches children how to take care of themselves and nurtures the relationship that is the model for the relationships we want our children to develop.