Years ago I was entering a grocery store; and in the doorway, a child was yelling something about a candy bar as he flung himself onto the floor kicking and screaming. It was an all-out tantrum over a sugary treat. As this child pitched a fit, I remember the look on the mom’s face. She looked horrified, embarrassed, angry and determined that she would not cave.
As I maneuvered around the chaos, I remembered thinking how awful the scene was and how my children (that I did not yet have) would never act like that.
I think back to my old self, the one who was judgmental, with no children. I apologize to the parent in the grocery store who was obviously trying very hard. I should have been more supportive. I could have offered a smile or a nod to say, “It’s OK, no judgment here.”
It is OK to say parenting is hard and sometimes it isn't fun. Sometimes it is downright frightening. Even if you enter parenthood thinking you have all the answers, you will most likely find that you do not, that your child will not follow all of your rules and go along with your plans. Under the best of circumstances, raising children can be frustrating and hard. Sometimes parents could use a little help, and that is OK.
What is not OK is that we as parents often feel like we can’t or shouldn't ask for help. We feel like we should know all the answers and know how to handle our kids and every situation that arises. Sometimes we feel like failures when we don’t. “I should know this, right?”
As parents, we don’t have all the answers and we should feel OK asking for and accepting help. I encourage parents and caregivers (grandparents, foster parents, etc.) to become aware and take advantage of services available to us.
Let a parent or caregiver know that you support them. Encourage them by letting them know what resources and activities are available to them. Give them a smile or a nod when their child has a meltdown in public. If you have kids, you know the importance of having support.
Across Montana, community organizations offer a host of free activities to support families including parenting classes (prenatal through teen years), respite care, parent peer groups, services for families with disabilities and parent-child activities, to name a few. These activities help parents and children create bonds and find new ways to cope with the challenges of everyday life—because life happens and sometimes it is wonderful and other times it can be messy and hard.
There are many effective approaches for parenting, and I encourage parents and caregivers to see what supports might be locally available to help ensure that we do our best to safeguard the social and emotional well-being of parents and kids.
Jamey Petersen is the full-time mother of two; in her spare time, she manages the Montana Children’s Trust Fund.