Carol came in to see me because she was struggling with stress from raising her three kids. Two of them were angelic, and then there was Eric, a spirited boy with autism. Carol’s parenting stress escalated every time Eric had a tantrum, which seemed to happening a lot.
Raising kids is often a challenge, so there is no surprise there, but managing the stress was key to Carol’s own mental health, and her relationship with her kids and her husband.
We discussed the key triggers to Carol’s parenting stress and it was centred on Eric’s boredom, and his fast movements which indicated his frustration. Carol was always in disaster prevention mode. The interesting this is that Eric, a seven year old, was fully aware of the influence he had over Carol. To her surprise, he actually said to her that if he did not get what he wanted then he would get upset, and that he did not like it when that happened. Sounds a little like the famous line out of The Hulk: “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like it when I’m angry!”
Eric was clearly a very observant boy. He was also clearly stating his observations and that he understood the power he held. While he sounded manipulative, he was in fact very up front in alerting his mum to the facts.
Parenting Stress – The Real Issue
Parenting stress arises when demands outweigh capacity, and when low-self worth is involved, capacity is much less. Until Eric alerted Carol to his observations, Carol had been curtailing to Eric’s whims because she had been told by several experts that the problem was due to her weak attachment to him. This turned out to be incorrect. The problem was actually due to Carol’s low self-worth. Once we began working on this, many things improved.
Carol’s parenting stress escalated in response to her fear that Eric would have a tantrum. She was living in anxiety. Why did Eric not behave this way to Carol’s husband? We worked out that it was due to the novelty of Dad coming home that distracted Eric away from tantrum behaviours. Alternatively, when Carol was home all day with him working on their ‘attachment’, instead of returning to work as she would have liked, it simply bored him and he played up.
Of course this could be different for each person. The work I did for Carol was specific to Carol, her emotions and experience, much of which is not discussed here. For someone else it could well be attachment issues. In Carol’s case however, this had not worked.
Carol’s Parenting Stress – Two Solutions
By focusing more on herself instead of manoeuvring her life around Eric, balance was restored and Eric’s behaviour improved. A baby sitter experienced in special needs kids turned out to be the best strategic answer to the problem, while Carol resumed a few days back at work. Now Carol was the novelty when she came home on those few days.
More than this however, improving Carol’s self worth also helped her to manage stress, in and of itself. If a person feels not good enough, how can they manage anything well? Building Carol’s confidence in herself through various techniques resulted in a very calm Carol by session three, despite some unexpected, unrelated news that would send many of us into a storm.
If we do feel good enough, we cope better, generally. We also act in way which reflects this, and others tend to notice this. When others notice, they too respond to us in a different way. Self-worth has many benefits, most of all allowing us to live our best life.
If you experience parenting stress or low self-worth, we can help. Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Sunshine Coast.