It takes a village
Posted on 27 December 2019
Raising children is one of the most important, but also the most daunting job in the world. Here’s why accepting advice and input from external caregivers can help.
“Parenting can be a thankless task,” says Ronel Groenewald, a counselling psychologist at Mediclinic Kimberley. “We all sometimes deserve to be reassured that everything will be fine. Caregivers like the school teacher, the granny and grandpa, friends and neighbours will have intimate knowledge of both you and your child. They just might have the objective view of a difficult situation. Sometimes it is more important to listen to their advice than to act on your own accord.”
Groenewald explains that external caregivers (the ‘village’) will have different approaches to various situations. “This will give you a different perspective on your parenting style, which is sometimes exactly what you need. Just to take a step back from the problem in order to see the solution. Not only is this support important for the healthy development of your children, it can also make the job of parenting less frustrating and more rewarding.”
As a parent, you are the primary caregiver, but it is unrealistic to assume you can raise your child without other influences. And being open to outside input can go a long way towards easing the load. “Today, most parents have to work to maintain and sustain their household,” Groenewald says. “You might also be supporting your own elderly parents which can put a huge strain on you. If you’re a single parent – or the sole breadwinner in the family – the burden increases.”
This is where the ‘village’ comes into its own – offering support, advice and practical help. It can be as simple as having a back-up plan with your neighbour or relative to assist you during the week when your child needs help with homework. “We all need support in our sometimes harsh and busy lives,” Groenewald explains.
If you choose to offer help and advice to another parent, be mindful of your approach. “You don’t want to patronise or criticise,” Groenewald says. “Advice should be offered as part of a lengthy conversation, not just dropped from a closed-ended angle.”
Groenewald adds that the approach and wording in a conversation can either make or break the situation. Never assume you’re an expert. Phrases like: “I am not sure, but I was thinking…” or “I don’t know myself, but I am wondering…” will create open-ended conversations and meaningful dialogue. “Share situations or scenarios where you made your own parenting mistakes and where you had to learn to do a certain thing differently to get the desired results,” Groenewald suggests.
“And keep in mind that not everybody will be open to advice. Some people get very easily offended and might feel you are disrespecting them,” she adds. “Choose the right time and be sure of your motives before offering advice or input to other parents.”
In short, external caregivers can offer reassurance and support. And who doesn’t want to hear: “You will be OK, all parents struggle with that, don’t worry – tomorrow everything will be better”?