Dear Caring Parent,
What’s the big deal about your parenting team? In short, these are people that are your modern version of ‘it takes a village’.
We no longer have that house-to-house, across the neighborhood blocks, village for our free.roaming kids (or such is the image of the village). What we do have is a house here ‘n there, friends, family, coaches, teachers, daycare care staff, nannies, spiritual leaders – you get the picture.
WHO IS YOUR PARENTING TEAM? (shrink words by 57)
This list of people become part of our parenting team, by virtue of their relationship to us and involvement and influence with our children. Truthfully, most of the time we are moving through our parenting years without thinking about them as a parenting team. It’s helpful to be more intentional in our thoughts about this list though. I like to break it down into our confidantes, helpers, and kids people.
The confidantes: Typically a small circle of people, this part of your team is there for you, yourself and you. You trust them to let you vent. They help you to re-align you with your values, to get perspective. You know who these people are, and it’s difficult to parent without them. Unfortunately, it’s easy to neglect this aspect of your parenting team because it’s natural to focus on the people around your children. There is a void when this part of your team isn’t active though, like when new to parenting and friendships are shifting, you’ve moved, or you are all so busy it’s hard to get together. Think about what makes a confidante for you, what it takes to let you vent, what values do you have to share, with whom do you talk easily and freely?
The Helpers: These are people involved in physically or emotionally helping you with your parenting. It can be therapists, family, friends, a parenting coach, social media people who provide you with valued input, the nanny or babysitter. People who are more engaged with you in your home or in your mental-emotional world. This part of your team is best when you’ve chosen the people to be there.
The Kids People: The circle of people around our children. They are on your team by virtue of how important they are to your child. That importance might be a personal connection your child has to them or the influence they have on your child’s day. You protectively monitor these relationships and are more cognizant of your own relationship with these coaches of all kinds, teachers, nannies, families with children your children play often with, a particular auntie or uncle, your immediate community.
PROBLEMS WITH A PARENTING TEAM
Membership changes! Who is in these circles is fluid sometimes. Life happens; a confidante moves away or gets super busy with a new job so might temporarily at least be unavailable, a parent of one of your child’s friends becomes a confidante or helper.
Family members! Honestly, family members don’t always make the team. Sad, but true. But unless they are toxic for you, they are likely part of the kids people. Nuancing those relationships becomes a part of your life – a bit more on that below.
Misbehavior! “That coach isn’t letting my child play enough”. “They aren’t paying enough attention (in daycare)”. “My friend has so much going on she can’t hear me any more.” “He/she just doesn’t understand what this is like for me”. There are times when the team isn’t pulling together with you. What to do?
GETTING YOUR PARENTING TEAM TO WORK FOR YOU (shrink words by 50 and put in lovve format)
It’s not really about team management. A parenting team is more about individual relationships. Some of you reading this are interested in intentional relationships because you’re interested in greater connection to yourself and others. There is no template for that so I use L.O.V.V.E. from my book, The Dance of Parenting. Use the following being intentional once you’ve put names in the parts of your team
- have fun with it – give their role on your team a nickname, send little notes to them for #2 on this list…
- thank them for what they specifically do for your child – “I like how you include him”, “It means so much to me that you take time to simply listen”, “I appreciate how you notice her strengths”.
- keep honing your ability to say what you want/need from them – get present with yourself by asking yourself ‘what’s important about that?’ It helps when you explain the ‘why’. This is hard when it might mean saying to the MIL “I need your support, not your criticism.” When doing this, remember to calm yourself so you can be present to yourself.
- watch your relationship boundaries. Be aware of roles and responsibilities.
- let them know they are part of a parenting team. I remember the affect when a friend told me clearly “I’m here for you. Talk to me about this.” I felt accompanied with something going on with my child.
- let go of it being perfect. Not everyone, even family, is going to align perfectly with what we want. Some of these imperfections can help your children learn to navigate different types of relationships. Each and every one of us has imprinted modes of communication that have become habits. That critical MIL was criticized, learned to be critical of herself, therefore everyone else. BUT, back to #4, your partner bears responsibility in setting things right (see #7).
- recognize that these parenting team relationships are also part of our own journey in healing our relationship wounds. Have a little compassion for you and the others.
- And if you are someone’s parenting team, but they haven’t done any of these things, let them know very clearly that you are available for whatever your role is.
One could write a book chapter on some of these list items. But hopefully it helps you reflect on and strengthen your parenting team, your village.
Take care now, Natasha.