By Kamala Glenn-Taylor, BS, BA, MS-MFTParenting. Such a benign word. But anyone who has been a parent knows that the title comes with much more than what they could have bargained for. With the plethora of material available on the topic of parenting one wonders how it is that so many families still find themselves in turmoil with the introduction of this tiny dependent new life. Halas (2014) puts it this way, “We’ve all been there. You look at your new baby and deep joy settles into your soul, but the days to come may not be exactly what you planned. The joy is soon colored by the realities of sleep deprivation, worry and more advice than any human being could ever possibly use” . Parenting sometimes is not at all what new parents expect!
The question becomes how do clinicians effectively tackle this multifaceted stage in newly parented families? Tackling any therapeutic problem often involves the asking of more questions before one can get to a working solution. The first question to ask ourselves is, how much do we know about each individual’s ideas about parenting? And how much do they know about each other’s ideas? Oftentimes the reality is that two individuals have come together and decided to engage in family building while not being cognizant of their partner’s views surrounding parenting. So, is the couple on the same page? Have they considered division of child care, religious beliefs, discipline, family traditions, and the influence of other voices in child care decisions among many others? For military families, have they considered these topics and the changing factors that future military deployment will bring? How will they decide what parenting looks like with one parent away and when that parent returns? What are the types of conversations that have occurred?
Now typically, a therapist or helping professional, will probably be introduced to the family after disagreements surrounding childcare have already escalated. Parents will be frustrated, maybe even angered by their partners inability to see their point! Whatever the case clinicians have the responsibility of slowing down the conversation and getting to the heart of the matter. Can our parents see eye to eye? Can they get to a place of understanding the other partners view? Oftentimes the couple neglects to consider all of the influential factors that have helped create them into the people they now are and the influential factors that continue to influence who they are. Why is this important? Each aspect of our combined life experiences influences the lens through which we view our world and the decisions we make in that world. Becvar, Becvar and Bender (1982) state that, “We all select and edit our reality in order to make it conform to our personal theories” . In that context we can expect that no two individuals will be alike and thus no two parents will have the same views. Clinician responsibility entails being able to be cognizant of that reality and aid clients in recognizing the utility in those differences.
So how do we get there? While the particulars of technique, intervention and “languaging” may differ from clinician to clinician and from modality to modality, one thing remains true. We must listen. We must listen in a way that minimizes our biases and beliefs of how people should be as parents while maximizing on the shared goals and dreams that these parents have for this new life. While they may differ on the process of raising a happy, successful child their end goal is the same. How will you help them to get there?
Kamala Glenn-Taylor is a Master of Science degree recipient of the Marriage & Family Therapy Department at Valdosta State University. She is an independent contractor with Palm Tree Psychological Services and a guest blogger for the MFLN Family Development team. Love what you read? Be sure to visit Kamala’s personal blog site, here, for more.