Early on in my graduate training as a child and family therapist, I remember a parent telling me, “You don’t have kids, you will NEVER understand what I am going through.” Ten years and two children later I am here to tell you, I understand. I am not sure what has helped me more, the ten years or the two children. At the time I remember responding with the textbook phrase, “No I am not parent could you please help me understand?” Before becoming a parent myself, this seemed to work. I listened to that parent’s individual challenges and was able to hear about the state of parenthood.
My wife and I say, “Being a parent is not for the weak.” It takes an even more special person to parent a child well when you put on a layer of psychiatric, medical, or developmental disability. We are raising two “normal” children and have a huge support system and it is still very exhausting at times. My current role is to increase the support systems for parents who need it. Does this require me to be a parent myself? I would hope that my continued practice of engaging with others trumps this. Sometimes I disclose that I am parent and there other times I don’t but I not sure of the impact, if any, this has on my ability to work with them.
When working with parents with of children with disabilities I have had several different trainings for CBT, crisis intervention for parents, and a string of great supervisors. This has helped me immensely. I feel like that all the training and “being a parent” pales in comparison to good assessment and engagement skills. When it comes to parenting, active listening goes a long way. This is my philosophy on engagement with parents (and with everyone). It is balancing our textbook knowledge with our ability to be human. I have a masters degree, trainings, but I am also a caring human being (that just so happens to be a parent). So I hope that my skill in engaging with others trumps the “I am also a parent” card.
image from healertoday.com