November 13, 2019
By Dr Kathy Weston
Last Thursday, I spent an evening interviewing the psychotherapist Julia Samuel MBE at the Sandpit Theatre in St Albans. We came together as a community of people journeying through grief and learning how to best support children through the experience.
The people who came to this event had lost children, parents and partners, sometimes in deeply traumatic circumstances. However, we were soothed by hearing each other’s stories and sharing strategies for coping.
Personally, the conversation made me feel much more resilient in the face of losses that are to come and absolutely fervent in my belief that we must talk about death more. As parents, we should model a lack of fear to our children, have little conversations about loss as we go along, and build in a template for gratitude and resilient thinking within family life.
The internet is packed with parenting tips from countless experts. However, there are 5 tips that I hold dear and try to apply in my own parenting.
Steve Biddulph once told me that parents should “try and be the person they want their child to be”. Genius. He is referring to the importance of modelling the behaviour, approach and attitude that we wish our children to exhibit.
My co-author, Dr Janet Goodall, once told me to simply “enjoy your children”, which is a comment that I reflect on continuously. Just being ‘in the moment’ with our children and appreciating that time together, is so important.
The third tip came from a conversation with Professor Fiona Brooks (an expert on adolescence) after an office discussion on teens’ digital habits. She said: “Kathy, if you aren’t the source of everything, the internet will be”. She was reiterating the absolute importance of parents leading the conversation with children about anything and everything. If we don’t do this, Google becomes the dictionary and reference point.
My fourth parenting tip came from my father, who is a psychiatrist. As a teen, he told me to “trust your own judgement”. I was empowered by his belief and trust in me. His words remind us that teenagers need that little bit of agency in their decision-making.
My last tip was one that I read in Tony Little’s book, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education. He reminds us that our children will disappoint us from time to time (because they are children!). Don’t expect perfection; they are learning as they go along.
I create about two podcasts a month for my #GetaGrip series.
This month, I have interviewed the behavioural optometrist, Bhavin Shah who specialises in visual performance and next month, I look forward to interviewing one of the world’s experts on sibling relationships, Professor Susan McHale.
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