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8 Reasons Why Parenting Might Feel Difficult

mum carrying the mental load of parenting and juggling all the household jobs
stressed parent struggling to cope when siblings are fighting

Are you finding parenting difficult?

There’s no denying parenting is tough and in todays climate we are expected to do it all. We no longer have the village and there’s many people who are parenting in isolation and who are  unsupported and trying to pour from an empty cup. Many parents reach out to me for one to one support when they are at their absolute limit or they are in fight or flight and struggling to cope with their child’s behaviours.

Not to long ago a couple I had been working with for 12 weeks said “When we initially reached out to you we wanted strategies to change our child’s behaviour but we’ve now realised that it’s us whose actually changed, the children are exactly the same but how we engage and view the children is now completely different.”

You see when we are in fight or flight we feel like we are out of control so we want to try and control what we can and usually this is where parents try to control their children. These parents have a very small capacity and limited patience so they want to stop children’s behaviours and emotions as quick as they can because they just can’t cope. I get it, I really do. I’ve worked with enough parents to understand that you aren’t alone if you feel this way and being a mum of two daughters, I myself have been there before.

But what I also know is parenting doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact it can feel easy and you can experience more peace and calm then you could ever imagine the thing is though, there is a catch. You absolutely have to put the work in. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Nothing changes unless you do” and it really is true.

But maybe it’s not just your parenting style that needs to change? But there’s other factors that are contributing towards parenting feeling so difficult and these are things that have absolutely nothing to do with your children and everything to do with your lifestyle, your history and your nervous system!

Stick with me whilst below I detail 8 reasons why you may be finding parenting so difficult:

8 reasons why parenting might feel difficult

1. Your relationship

If you aren’t in a happy, fulfilling, emotionally supportive relationship you can find yourself harbouring a lot of resentment and potentially taking that out on your children. Often when we experience difficult emotions that we find hard to sit with it can give a person temporary relief by projecting them onto someone else.

I’ve worked with many parents who have found themselves in unhappy relationships where there has been a break down in communication and a lack of emotional support and they have found themselves taking this out on their children. Sometimes it’s easier for parents to blame the little people in their life then to confront the real issue at hand because it can be scary to admit that the relationship is no longer working.

What can also be common is that one parent starts becoming more conscious and creating positive change and the other parent isn’t want to grow and develop and this can cause friction and distance between a couple.  If you are struggling in your relationship it is important you seek out support. Either sitting down and talking with your partner or seeking out therapy together. I can highly recommend Imago therapy for any couples wanting support in their relationship.

mum carrying the mental load of parenting and juggling all the household jobs
2. You work/life balance

How is your work/life balance?  Most of the parents I work with are high achievers, at the top of the career ladder and have worked incredibly hard to get where they are at in their careers which is a very admirable trait. The thing is for many of these parents they find it difficult to work at the level they were working at before they had children and then they hit burn out as they try to do it all. This is where parents really have to step back and reevaluate their work/life balance and see whether it’s sustainable and also what the long term impact is if they don’t take their foot of the gas?

For many parents their priorities can change once they have children but they struggle with the identity change that comes with being a parent especially if they get a lot of worth from their career. This is why a parent can work on reframing their role as a parent and realise it really is the most important job in the world. I remember reaching out to a popular book author when my daughter was a baby and this is the advice she gave me, “You can always make money but you can’t always get this time back” and that always stuck with me.

children playing outdoors on a sunny day in the park
3. You don't get outdoors enough

How often do you get outdoors? Nature is healing and for many of my clients they will start incorporating a grounding practice outdoors which helps balance sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, reduces inflammation and helps balance cortisol levels. My clients are encouraged to get natural daylight and any sun they can which helps with their circadian signalling which helps their regulation and improves blood flow.

If you are living an indoor lifestyle, under artificial light all day and aren’t getting outdoors then this can absolutely contribute to you finding parenting so difficult. We all feel better when we get outside so I’d encourage you to get outside as many times as you can. Even if thats just for 2 minute light breaks or crack open the windows in your house to let the light and air in. I’m not an expert in these areas but can highly recommend Sarah Kleiner on instagram and who also has a youtube channel on the healing properties of the sun, grounding and being out in nature!

4. You diary is too full
Dad talking on phone whilst parenting his young daughter at home

If you diary is always full and you are busy all of the time then it makes sense why you are finding parenting so difficult. When I work with parents they will often reel off to me their typical weekend and then when I repeat their words back to them you can see them having a lightbulb moment as they realise their action packed weekends are causing everyone to be dysregulated. If you are going through particular challenges with your children the first thing I would suggest is strip back your schedule, allow more time for unstructured fun (outdoors) and factor in more rest/regulation time over anything else.

5.You struggle to say no
struggling to say no to your kids?

A lot of my clients are people pleasers. They pride themselves on being “yes” people but they don’t realise that their inability to say no can cause them to be sick and burnt out. The thing is, it’s not that simple for these people to just say no as their people pleasing tendencies have strong roots, often going back to childhood so it can be a journey to get to a place where these people learn to have boundaries and say no. If this is you I highly recommend Dr Gabor Maté’s book – when the body says no. I read this many years ago and it changed my life and set me on a path of healing and learning to say no. This book talks about the long term impact on your health if you don’t learn to have boundaries.

6. You have unhealed childhood trauma
young child sat on stairs all alone crying with head in hands

I’m yet to meet a parent who hasn’t endured some sort of trauma in their life time. Whether a big T or Small T (which you can read bout here) many parents have unhealed trauma which is showing up in their parenting and often they have no idea how much this is impacting them. You see when they are triggered by their child’s behaviour it has very little to do with the behaviour that’s been presented in the moment and everything to do with their nervous system perceiving this behaviour as a threat due to things that happened in their own childhood.

Many parents I work with never had a parent who was able to emotionally coach them or hold space for their feelings so they have difficulty knowing how to work through their feelings today as an adult. Unhealed trauma is a big part of what makes parenting so difficult and it’s important that as you acknowledge this you find support as an adult.

7. You don't know how to regulate
Woman giving herself a self hug method by peter levine

This goes inline with number six as the two are interlinked. Unhealed trauma creates a dysregulated nervous system (think fight/flight/freeze). When you are feeling overwhelmed that means that “too much” is happening in your body. Unprocessed trauma is constantly flooding your nervous system with intensity so your nervous system goes into overdrive.

When children don’t have the relational safety or emotional support they need they will find ways to adapt to their environment. This can be seen in the child who lashes out and fights or the child who disassociates and shut’s down. Perhaps think of your own unique nervous system responses in times when you feel most challenged and overwhelmed. Do you want to shut the world away and hide? Do you want to runaway and disappear or do you feel angry, rageful and want to attack? All of this is our nervous system doing it’s job to protect us but when we start to understand our nervous system we can work on creating inner safety and taking steps to self regulate. Body based tools are needed to nervous system regulation and tools you can draw upon when you are feeling overwhelmed. I help parents with these tools on my 12 week parenting programme.

8. You don't have emotional support
woman lying on sofa with hands on her face whilst therapist makes notes

If you don’t have emotional support parenting is going to feel difficult and this is especially true if you do have unhealed trauma and you have never had anyone supporting you in your most difficult moments. You see relational co-regulation is so important whereby we are able to co-regulate with another safe, warm, regulated person and for many adults they didn’t get this as a child so then they may find themselves in relationships/friendships that replicate familiar dynamics from childhood so they don’t actually have people in their life today who can really emotionally support them.

This is where reaching out for external support can be so beneficial. Working with a therapist or trauma informed coach can provide a safe space for you to talk, work through your feelings and set goals for moving forward. Emotional healing will allow you to create more space in your body so that thing’s don’t overwhelm you as much as they currently do. When you have emotional support you learn to be with your emotions and process them bit by bit.