Some of the biggest benefits for me of the life skills I have learnt with The Thrive Programme have been around being a parent. As the mum of two wonderful teenagers I am truly grateful for the ways that the positive psychology of the Thrive Programme has enriched our lives as a family.
Before I had children, I had some pretty unhelpful beliefs about being a mum that centred around ideas of being “the perfect mother”. For me, the perfect mum was infinitely patient, kind, caring, thoughtful and calm with a constantly happy family and an organised, shiny, tidy home and not a hair out of place. I came down to earth with a bump when I had a newborn who thought sleep was over-rated and the reality of motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks. It was both a lovely and challenging time and mostly not at all like the perfect image I had had in my mind.
As my first born grew and I had another child, I continued to put perfectionist pressures on myself. There were plenty of fun times but I was sometimes hard on myself due to my unrealistic perfectionist thinking. If I wasn’t infinitely patient, I would brood and beat myself up about it. I didn’t realise it at the time, but much of my self esteem was based on “how well” I was doing as a mum. Most of my perfectionism was inwardly-based, so I didn’t expect my children to be perfect: I was happy for them to do their thing in their own time; not constantly comparing them to how other children were doing. It was more about setting myself unrealistically high standards of motherhood and then being hard on myself when I inevitably didn’t reach those self-imposed “pinnacles of success”.
Fast-forward to the present and things are very different. I am content with being a “good enough” mum. Sometimes I’m a great mum and sometimes not so much and that’s just fine. I make mistakes and I learn from them. I don’t brood on them and make them into a bigger deal. I work out what I could maybe do differently next time and then I draw a line under it and move forward. I process experiences in a much healthier, more helpful way so that I no longer see only absolute success or complete failure: I can see the many subtle nuances in-between. I can also see that it has been beneficial for my children to see that making mistakes and learning from them is okay and an important part of life.
I also manage my emotional reactions better than I used to. This has taken determined effort and practice! This ability to create calm much more often than I create anxiety has created a positive ripple effect for our family. As well as learning to manage my own emotions, I have learnt much about not “rescuing” my children from feeling uncomfortable emotions such as disappointment, sadness and hurt. Parents can sometimes run around trying to prevent their children from feeling anything other than constantly happy and in doing so, we’re not giving them the opportunity to realise that emotions are temporary and that, while it is unpleasant feeling disappointed, sad or hurt, we will recover and sometimes learn something valuable in the process. Often our parental over-reaction to the possibility of our children feeling emotionally hurt or sad for example, isn’t helping them to feel equipped to thrive through the ups and downs of life. It’s completely normal for us to want our children to have a lovely life but there is a balance to be struck so that they build healthy coping skills.
Being a parent has many facets: most are joyful and fun, some are frustrating, uncomfortable, upsetting or annoying. The Thrive Programme has enabled me, and the parents I have worked with, to build the psychological foundations to thrive as a parent. And when parents are thriving, their children can’t help but thrive too.