Your Needs are OK for Me - The Recovering Parent
by Linda Kondracki
"Quit bothering me! Can't you see I'm tired?"
"You can't be sick today. I can't take the time off work!"
"Don't be so selfish. Your little brother can play in your room if he wants to. He's just a baby."
"Remember this formula for joy: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last."
"You're getting too big to sit on my lap and be cuddled; that's just for little kids."
"Stop that crying this instant!"
Do any of these statements sound familiar? If you are a parent in recovery, you probably grew up with messages like these, all of which communicated to you that your needs were not okay. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of recovery is learning to recognize our own needs and find appropriate ways to get them met. And the next question is, "How do we keep from passing on to our children the message that was passed on to us - , "your needs don't matter."
One way is to clearly spell out the messages we want to send to our kids. We can do that by using slogans. Slogans can be powerful reminders and teaching tools when we make them a part of our everyday life. Look at those listed below and choose several that capture what you would like to communicate to yourselves and your children. Write them out and post them on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator door. Use them as encouragements (It's okay to ask for help), affirmations (Your needs are okay with me), and teaching tools (Say what is true!).
SLOGANS FOR PARENTS TO GIVE TO THEMSELVES:
- Children are supposed to be needy.
- "Lone Ranger parenting" is self-destructive.
Recognize that no parent can meet their children's needs 100% of the time. It is much healthier to surround yourself with a support network of people who can have positive influences in your children's lives, and don't be afraid to ask for help from them when you need it.
- You can't give your children what you don't have yourself.
Use this slogan as a reminder to keep working on being okay with your needs and finding healthy, creative ways to get them met. Your kids will learn tons about their own needs by watching you.
SLOGANS FOR PARENTS TO GIVE TO THEIR KIDS:
- It's okay to ask for help.
- If you need help, ask for it. Don't whine, complain or blame someone else. Everyone needs help; don't ever be afraid or ashamed to ask for it.
- Your needs are okay with me.
- Don't be afraid of your needs; let's talk about them.
- My needs are okay, too:
- I (and others in the family) have needs, too. When our needs are in conflict, we can work it out, or you can find someone else to help.
- Say what is true:
- This slogan reminds kids to state their needs in clear, straight messages. My favorite illustration of this comes from a kindergarten teacher who asked me what she could do about a student who constantly complained about feeling sick. I asked the teacher how she responded to the child. "Well", she replied, "I usually try to talk her out of it, give her a big hug and send her back to her seat." I suggested that perhaps she was really looking for the hug, and that she could give the girl permission to ask for the hug without having to act sick to get it. The next week the teacher reported, "She asks me for a hug every day now, but no longer complains about being sick!"
Another example: If your child says to you, "You always play with Johnny and you never play with me!" you can respond with, "I don't think what you just said is true. Please tell me what you are feeling (or thinking or want) from me right now." Help your child say something that is more true, such as "I need some play time with you, too." or, "I feel left out".
Activity Box: HAVE A SLOGAN PARTY
Here's a way to accomplish several things at once. You can reinforce important truths by working with slogans, and at the same time enjoy a family evening together. Kids will love having everyone - adults included - working together on craft projects. You can also extend your support network by inviting one or more families to join you.
Choose several slogans from the list above, or others that have meaning to your family. Have available a variety of craft materials for making the slogans into usable items. Examples:
- Cross stitch them on to wall hangings or pillow covers
- Use a computer graphics program to make banners
- Create book covers for school books
- Make door knob hangers or bookmarks
Make cards you can give each other or send to friends or relatives
- Decoupage plaques (does anyone ever do that anymore?)
NOTE: If you do not know how to prepare craft projects, stop by your local craft store and ask for help, or invite friends who know how to do such projects to help and join you.
Go to more Articles by Linda Kondracki in STEPS Magazine.
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