The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with Positive Social Support
Let’s face it: life has its challenges. Sometimes, even the strongest of us can get discouraged. Our negative self-talk (“I just can’t do it.” “I’ve failed.” “I’m not skilled/smart/adept enough.”) can set in play a self-defeating cycle (negative self-talk leads to failure to embrace opportunities for success, which in turn leads to stagnation due to lack of successes, which reinforces the perception that the negative self-talk was accurate, which perpetuates the failure to embrace opportunities for success, and so the cycle continues). We need to surround ourselves with positive social support to prevent and combat the negative self-talk so that we can continue to strive for successes. Let’s delve into how this can apply to parenting.
Your four-year-old son is still wetting the bed at night. You have tried every technique you can think of to help him master the task of sleeping through the night dry. You are getting discouraged. It may be easy to think, “I am clearly not doing something right. I’m failing my son. He needs guidance from me, and I don’t know how to help him.” You may want to throw up your hands in despair and turn the training over to your parents (your theory being that they have the knowledge that you lack because they trained their children while you cannot train yours). Enter your positive social support system. One of your friends tells you, “I can see that you are getting discouraged. You know, when my son was four, he was still wetting the bed sometimes too. Some kids just have a tougher time mastering that. If you persevere, though, it will all work out. Trust me. You are doing just fine.” Another friend says, “I read a great book about potty training a while back. It really helped my train my kids. Would you like to read the book? I’d be happy to loan it to you.” Still another friend says with a wink, “So, if he goes off to college with a plastic sheet on his bed, who cares? It’s probably just as well, given that college kids tend to be slobs anyway.” The consequence of all this positive social support is that you feel encouraged to keep trying with your son. You let go of your feelings of discouragement, choose not to give up on yourself and your son, and you therefore keep successful potty training on your radar.
Your 13-year-old daughter is rebelling. She wears clothes you do not approve of, and she has some friends that concern you. You have spoken with her about what you are seeing and why it concerns you. You have asked her if she is feeling ok and if there is anything she would like to speak with you about. You have let her know that you are eager to listen to whatever she has to say . . . and what you hear in return is silence. You don’t know how to approach this situation differently so that you can achieve a different result. Enter your positive social support system. One of your friends tells you, “I know the ‘terrible-teens’ are tough for both kids and parents. While I don’t have any kids of my own, I do remember when I was a teen. I did the same thing your daughter is doing now. I wasn’t mad at my parents; I was feeling moody and confused in general. Did I want to be “the funny girl”, “the athletic girl”, “the smart girl”, “the sexy girl”, or what? My hormones were just kicking in, and I was trying to adapt to that. It was messy. Still, my parents were very patient and supportive of me. They did exactly what you are doing now. When I got through the emotional and cognitive haze of my teen years, I was just fine and so was my relationship with my parents. My point is that you are doing just fine. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” The consequence of this positive social support is that you decide that you are handling your daughter well and that everything will turn out just fine. You do not get discouraged as you have reason to believe that you (and your daughter) will have a successful outcome.
As you can see from these two examples, positive social support can help parents cope with parenting challenges. Positive social support can provide information, validation, and encouragement. Positive social support can cause increased or renewed hope and the energy to embrace further opportunities for success in parenting endeavors. Positive social support can sometimes salvage parent-child relationships.
One final note: just as you need positive social support, so do your friends and family members. You can be positive social support to them as well. You will find that giving positive social support can be just as positive for you as it is for the recipient.
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