I’m not a parent, which automatically disqualifies me from giving parenting advice.

Well, according to some people, anyways. But I do know a lot of parents, and my wife and I lived with two couples with young children for close to two years. We definitely observed a lot of things and had conversations around raising children and even got to be involved a little bit in co-parenting alongside them.

Possibly the biggest and most important things I learned about parenting is that it doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes it’s not easy. And it can even be downright horrible at time.

But the secret is to not tell anyone. Ever.

LET’S BUST THAT MYTH

At least that’s what Social Media would have you believe. Pictures of cute children breaking academic and sporting records and looking amazing and obedient and if you peer really carefully at some of the pictures, you may even see the tiny little halos above the kids heads.

But back in real life, it turns out that it is not always that easy or fun.

TIME TO BE HONEST AND OPEN

Secrecy doesn’t help anyone. It convinces you that you are the only ones having difficulty with raising your children. Which also makes you feel bad because you also get the impression that everyone else is coping with their children so WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? 

The truth is that all children are different, all situations are different and therefore all experiences are different. Which must be one of the toughest things about parenting – there can be no one-size-fits-all manual to tell you how to do it, because it is different every time.

One thing that will make things easier is if parents start being a little more open and honest with each other.

Which is why I have been sharing the stories on my blog and inviting readers to share them with their friends. The encouragement that comes just from knowing someone else has walked or is walking a road similar to yours is immense. You can start to share ideas and coping mechanisms, solutions to bad habits that you’ve found and plans you have tried that have worked.

The old African saying that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ could not be more true.

And yet people continue to try to raise them in isolation. Take it to another level if you have a single parent family or if one or more of your children have a learning or physical disability or challenge.

You cannot and should not do this alone. It’s okay (and really really good) to ask for help!

WHO TO TURN TO?

If you are a parent and you have found it extremely difficult, I encourage you to take the risk and share your story with someone else. A safe person for you might be a family member you trust or a good friend; it might be someone at a church or even in some cases professional help from a counsellor might be just what you need.

But the big lie in all this is that you have to do this by yourself. Or you have to naturally be good at it. Or there won’t be times when you actually break down and cry or grab a tub of ice-cream from the freezer and finish off the whole thing.

While doing any of those things might not be the most helpful or appropriate thing to do in the moment, being able to voice it to someone who gets you and cares about you and is safe, definitely is.

And let those of us who don’t have children step in to babysit and guard the fort and give you some space every now and then when you need it. That’s what friends are for.

Parenting is one of the hardest things to do well and I cheer you on as you do your best to be a good mom or dad. My prayer is that you will find spaces where you can speak honestly and have a community of people backing you up to help you find the strength you need to continue, and continue well. You got this!

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