Parenting can feel overwhelming to just about anyone. Despite all the parenting skills and general advice that might be given, each child is unique and creates stresses, challenges, and wonderful moments that are completely unique and somewhat unpredictable. This unpredictable nature of parenting is why parenting experts agree that having a strong set of resources as a parent is vital. Resources are the tangible and intangible things we use to cope with hard situations. Parenting resources can include a wide variety of things, ranging from money to knowledge about specific topics to even a good sense of humor. The Teammates aspect of parenting is all about creating a team of people and resources that become your “go-to” places when you need a little extra help with parenting. You can think about yourself as the coach building a strong team around your child. You are their primary resource and teacher, but what other teammates are you going to put on the team to also support your child? Let’s talk about a few specific strategies you can use to build a strong team around you and your parenting.
Asking For Help
Before we get into the specific strategies of building a good team, we need to talk about a general principle when it comes to creating a strong parenting team. It may seem simple, but to create good teammates, you have to invite people to be a part of your team. That means you need to ask for help as a parent. This is sometimes harder than it appears because we all have internal anxiety about not wanting to appear like a bad parent to others. We worry that if we ask for help from others, that sends a message that we’re not competent parents. This is simply not true! Asking for help is one of the traits experts know predicts the best parents! Good parents know that sometimes they lack the knowledge, skills, or expertise to tackle every parenting issue or concern that arises. It can truly take a village to raise a child, and parents who seek outside resources and get help when they need it are better prepared to handle the unexpected and sometimes more challenging situations that parenting can create. Once you’re willing to invite people onto your parenting team, here are a few specific strategies you can use to build the best team possible for your child.
1. Start Close to Home
The first strategy for building a strong team when you ask for help is to start close to home. This means to look at your own family and identify the people in your family that might be key resources to you. You’re likely utilizing people already in your immediate family as part of your parenting team (like your spouse) so look a little bit farther away. Extended family members can be great resources to you. Do you have an aunt that’s raised four kids? Perhaps you have a cousin with children around a similar age as your kids? Look at your extended family members and think about what resources you might have at your fingertips that you haven’t utilized. Instead of trying to build your parenting team with strangers, see if you can start by expanding your local team!
These family members can be a key resource to you in terms of one specific type of source of help, lived experience. Your family members had likely gone through similar parenting situations and can help give you information about what helped (and what didn’t) when they went through similar parenting challenges. Learn from the success and failures of those around you.
As you do this, keep in mind that lived experiences are great for giving you solid examples of things that may or may not work in your own parenting but should never be taken as the only way to tackle a problem. What worked for your family member may not work for you. You are unique as a parent, and your child is also unique. Use your family teammates to get more options for how you might tackle specific situations, and then pick and choose what you feel would be the most beneficial in your own parent-child relationship. In our sports analogy, this is like expanding your playbook so that you have more plays at your fingertips based on the unique situations your child may present to you.
2. Embrace Technology Carefully
While family members can be great at giving you advice based on lived experience, sometimes you need teammates who can teach you something more universal. The problem is, your family members and even friends are likely not parenting experts!
Here is where you can expand your team to include access to online resources through the beauty of modern technology. Think about this like going to a coaching clinic taught by the best coaches around. You’re also doing some of this by utilizing this online program! There are a variety of other online resources you can turn to to get expert advice and opinions on child development or to help you gain knowledge about a variety of topics related to parenting. Look at social media and explore online video-sharing platforms for advice and information about whatever topics you feel you need to learn more about.
One caution about using these online resources: While the internet and technology have greatly expanded access to information and advice about parenting, not everyone who claims to be a parenting expert is giving good advice.
Spend some time considering how much of an “expert” an online resource is before you make them a permanent part of your parenting team. A quick online search can often tell you if a parenting expert has a degree from a respected university or if their “degree” is actually in a field unrelated to child development or parenting. Once you find a few solid and reliable online resources, keep utilizing them to learn and grow your own knowledge about what healthy parenting can look like.
3. Expect the Unexpected
The third important strategy for building a great parenting team is to expect and plan for the unexpected. Parenting comes with a lot of what experts call normative stress. These are stressful moments in parenting that are “normal” because most parents go through them. Think about moments like the first time your child goes to school or the first time they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. These are stressful moments as parents, but they are expected moments. Because we expect them, we can plan for them. Many parents have resources prepared and get themselves ready for these normative stressful moments of parenting. Due to this preparation, many parents manage this stress pretty well. However, many parents begin to struggle when unexpected things happen while they parent. These are the moments where stressful things happen that perhaps you were hoping to avoid (drug use, failing school) or were simply not planned for (the quick rise of social media use, a sudden expense hobby or sport your child insists they want to become involved in). When you’re coaching a team, you might prepare for most things, but the other team can always throw an unexpected play or formation out there for you to deal with.
These unexpected moments can catch parents off-guard and sometimes unprepared. It’s important when you construct your parenting team to make sure you have resources ready for even these unexpected situations. Of course, it’s impossible to plan for everything, but good and smart parents do some planning for these unexpected situations. As a coach, you want to spend at least some time prepping your team for the unlikely trick plays the other team may try. It is important to consider what resources you might have if your child has a mental health crisis, had a sudden accident, or suddenly was struggling socially. Do you have people you could turn to in these unique situations? Do you feel confident in your own parenting ability to negotiate these types of topics, or would you need to go seek additional information?
Think about how you might start today to prepare for these unexpected situations.
4. Get Child Input on Teammates
The final strategy to building a strong team around your child is to not neglect involving them in the process. Parenting experts know that involving children, especially older children, in decision-making is an important part of healthy parenting. Not only does this foster their growing independence, but it also makes them feel more buy-in and engaged with the rules and boundaries you want to set as a parent. While this involvement can and should extend to many elements of parenting, it also should be an important part of how you build your parenting team. Good coaches do not simply tell their players what is supposed to happen; and they also seek the input and thoughts of their players.
Many of the resources you are building around you to help you with your parenting are resources that, if needed, will also serve as resources for your child. However, research has shown us one important aspect of how we use resources in our life.
We only use resources if we think those resources are helpful! If your child doesn’t believe a person in their life is a helpful resource, that person will be unlikely to provide much tangible help to your parenting. This doesn’t mean that children should have the final say in who is involved in their life, but it may be worth talking to your child about who they trust and who they feel might be an important ally to them when they need help or have questions. This conversation may uncover people who might make strong teammates on your parenting team that you never even considered.
Together, these strategies will help you continue to build your parenting team and make sure you have the resources and support needed to navigate the challenging road of parenting. Remember, while you can’t prepare for everything, you can feel prepared for most things. Also, remember that no parent can go at it alone. Make sure you have the people around you who can help pull you through the difficult stretches of parenting and also cheer you on as you celebrate your success with your child.