Parenting can be satisfying and fulfilling. But it can also be difficult and time-consuming. Parents must tend to an infant or child’s daily needs. They are also responsible for helping each of their children develop life skills. These skills include daily living skills, social skills, and appropriate behaviors. Parents with more than one child must account for the personalities of each, as well.
New parents, overwhelmed parents, and parents facing mental health conditions may benefit from the support of a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can help parents through difficult situations or behavioral concerns.
From the moment a pregnancy or adoption is announced, most parents receive many suggestions on how to raise their child. Pediatricians provide information to new parents about the health and safety of infants. Media sources offer extensive and often conflicting advice on parenting. Family members may have varying opinions on what is best for a child.
New parents may feel overwhelmed by parenting information and advice. They may be unsure of what is best for their child. So they may turn to a pediatrician, therapist, or other specialist for advice. Experts in child psychology and development generally agree no one method of parenting is “best.” Parents may wish to try different parenting styles to see what works for their family.
Research generally backs the advice given by pediatricians and other health professionals. For example, they encourage parents to place infants to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Other advice may be less valid. Parents may wish to speak to an expert before following advice that makes them uncomfortable in any way.
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The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states parents are generally responsible for:
- Keeping children safe
- Listening to children and spending time with them
- Providing affection, order, and consistency
- Setting and enforcing limits for children
- Monitoring friendships children make
- Seeking help for any medical or behavioral concerns
Raising a child can be difficult for many reasons. Some common challenges parents face include:
- Providing consistent care
- Attending to the needs of an infant or toddler
- Maintaining adult relationships
- Financial difficulties
- Feeling rushed or “out of time”
- Scheduling and planning children’s days
- Lack of sleep
A parent who stays home with a child or children may feel overworked. They may resent the other parent for working outside the home. This can strain a partnership. Parenting is also often physically demanding. Parents with young children may spend much of their day performing household tasks.
Parenting may become more difficult when a child shows signs of behavior issues. Parenting may also become more complex if the child has a physical or intellectual disability. It can be hard to cope when a child needs extensive medical treatment or other extra care. Parents may find it difficult to give their children equal attention. This may cause some parents to feel guilt and greater levels of stress.
Research highlights some factors in parenting that can increase behavior problems. One of these is when parents are not united. This may mean they do not communicate well. It can send confusing messages to children. Kids may be unsure of what their parents expect of them. They may react to inconsistent parenting with misbehavior. Child psychologists emphasize the importance of being a cohesive parenting team.
Many experts recognize four parenting styles:
- Authoritative. This is considered the most effective form of parenting for most children. Authoritative parents have high expectations and goals for their kids. These are tempered with an understanding of their kids' limits. These parents are willing to communicate flexibly. This can make parent-child communication easier.
- Neglectful. Neglectful parenting can mean a lack of time spent with the child. Neglectful parents may be unfamiliar with their kids' teachers and friends. They may not care for their kids' basic needs. This type of parenting is rarely practiced on purpose. It’s important to recognize if you or someone you know has this parenting style. This type of parenting can be damaging to kids long-term.
- Permissive. Permissive parents are nurturing, loving, and supportive. But they can take this too far. Permissive parents may avoid conflict at any cost. They rarely enforce their own rules. Doing this can be harmful for children, as they thrive on routine.
- Authoritarian. Authoritarian is not the same as authoritative parenting. Authoritarian parents are strict and demanding with their children. Their parenting style is not often flexible. They generally rely on punishment to maintain obedience. There is rarely room for open communication between parents and kids.
Each style represents a different parenting mindset. Knowing which style you are can help you approach conflict in a healthy way. You may also identify which style you would like to be. You can even learn about which style your partner is. Recognizing your parenting styles can also help you communicate with your partner.
A parent is often the most influential person in a child’s life. Even after the child grows up, they may look to their parents for guidance. They may ask for advice on ethical issues as well as the typical concerns of daily life. A parent’s behavior and beliefs can influence those of their children. This is especially the case during a child’s early years. The biases of a parent are often learned by the child.
Children can overhear parents using language that implies a certain group of people is inferior to other groups. Parents may share stigmatizing beliefs about others. Children can adopt these attitudes as part of their own beliefs. Parents' religious and political views often become the child’s views. These views can change when the child is old enough question belief systems. Some parents strongly encourage a child to support their own beliefs. This may cause trouble if parents discourage their child from thinking about new ideas. This can cause children to develop a limited worldview. They may be less likely to seek out other viewpoints in adulthood.
Children also learn attitudes of acceptance from parents. Parents can raise kids who do not discount the ideas and viewpoints of others. This can allow children to grow up to be open to different people and new experiences.
A parent’s influence can be limited. Children may learn new ideas from friends, from the media, and at school. Trauma may also impact a child’s development or behavior. Peer pressure can lead a child to develop problematic behavior. This may happen regardless of a parent’s efforts to keep the child safe. Many parents choose to use their own parents’ style or method of parenting. They may believe what worked for them will work for their own children. But each child and family is different. One method of parenting may not work for all children.
Many parents continue to offer support and guidance to their adult children. This may especially be the case of a child who is coping with a chronic or temporary issue. But some adult children resent what they see as continued parental influence. These adult children may refuse assistance. Some children may engage in risky or destructive behavior. Parents may be unable to reach them or unsuccessful when encouraging them to seek help. This powerlessness is likely to be difficult and distressing for parents. A therapist or other mental health professional can help parents learn to cope with this. Therapists may also help parents learn how to reach out to their children, when possible.
Some parents cope with issues outside the home or in their personal relationships. They may struggle with finances or health. These parents may find the challenges of parenting more stressful or hard to cope with. This may also be true if it is the child who is facing an issue.
Single parent households are becoming common in the United States. Some parents are single by choice. Others may lose a spouse or partner through death or separation. A single parent often experiences increased stress. This can be due to a greater amount of parenting responsibility. When a parent suddenly becomes single, children may have trouble coping. This can lead to behavioral difficulties.
Divorced parents may share custody of children. The children may find rules and routines differ from one house to the next. This inconsistency can be difficult for them to adapt to. Newly single parents might find it harder to enforce rules without support. They may also experience the added stress of financial difficulties.
Single parents may find it hard to meet potential romantic partners or go on dates. This can be even harder for parents of small children.These parents may feel isolated and lonely. They may also have a higher risk for anxiety or depression.
There are ways single parents can cope with challenges. Some of these include:
- Staying connected with relatives and friends
- Creating a support network
- Making time for self-care and childcare
- Enrolling children in after school programs
These tips may help single parents cope with challenges and reduce stress in their lives. A therapist may be able to help address specific concerns.
- Alvy, K. (n.d.). How do parents' own biases impact their children? Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/publication/how-do-parents-own-biases-impact-their-children
- Grusec, J., & Danyliuk, T. (2014, December 1). Parents' attitudes and beliefs: Their impact on children's development. Retrieved from http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/parenting-skills/according-experts/parents-attitudes-and-beliefs-their-impact-childrens-development
- Hansen, A. (2013, September 3). The mysterious and alarming rise of single parenthood in America. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/09/the-mysterious-and-alarming-rise-of-single-parenthood-in-america/279203
- Single parenting and today’s family. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/single-parent.aspx
- Usakli, H. (2013). Comparison of single and two parents children in terms of behavioral tendencies. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 8(3), 256-270. Retrieved from http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_8_Special_Issue_April_2013/26.pdf