Katie Williford, MS, LCMHCA, NCC
Parenting: Owning Your Story
In the age of information overload, it seems like parents are bombarded with parenting advice on all sides. From social media, parenting books, and advice from family members, everyone seems to have the recipe for "perfect parenting". It can feel overwhelming to sift through endless streams of contradictory information and make parenting decisions that feel well-informed and optimal for your family. Even the most well-intentioned parents often find themselves feeling defeated in the face of parenting children with unique personalities, needs, and constant changes.
While there is a lot of benefit to learning about particular parenting skills, tools, and techniques, attachment research actually tells us that the key to effective parenting is quite simple. Attachment theory tells us that children with a securely attached relationship with a caregiver or parent may have positive outcomes such as higher self-esteem, healthier relationships, better emotional regulation, and greater academic success even in the face of adversity. Secure attachment is developed when a caregiver consistently and predictably cares for a child and meets their needs. Dr. Daniel Siegel describes secure attachment using the "Four S's", in which children feel:
1. Safe: Feeling protected from harm
2. Seen: Knowing you care about and pay attention to them
3. Soothed: Knowing you'll be there for them when they're hurting
4. Secure: Trusting you to predictably help them feel "at home" in the world
(Definitions from The Power of Showing Up by Dr. Daniel Siegel).
Creating a relationship with your child in which they feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure may not always come naturally. In fact, it can feel difficult or even painful at times. The best way to develop a securely attached relationship with your child actually has little to do with your child at all; research shows that the greatest predictor of how well parents can facilitate secure attachment is through owning their own stories. Even if they did not have a securely attached relationship with their own caregiver(s), parents who reflect on their own experiences as children and the way they were parented are able to create secure attachment with their children. In his book, The Power of Showing Up, Dr. Daniel Siegel writes:
"Even if we didn't have secure attachment from our own caregivers, we can still provide it to our own children, if we've reflected on and made sense of our own attachment history. You really can provide a loving, stable foundation for your child, even if you didn't receive one from your own parents."
This is great news for parents seeking to break generational patterns of hurt, neglect, or abuse and write a different story for their own children. I believe that one of the most important things parents can do for their children is to do the work of reflecting on, owning, and being honest about their own stories. At Cornerstone Counseling and Wellness, we would be honored to walk alongside you in this process. For more information, please visit our website at www.cornerstonecounselingnc.net.