In a world where books, continuing education and seminars tell of the latest and greatest social work interventions and tools to help families, I decided to gather information from a different and more "real" source. I asked a single mother of two children the advice she would give others who wanted to experience the success she and her family were able to attain.
Upon hearing the question, this mother took a moment and appeared to reflect on how she wanted to answer. She certainly had experienced her own challenges and had dealt with years of concerning behaviors from her children, including aggression, refusal to attend school, self-harm, intense conflicts, nightmares and other paralyzing fears. She had also dealt with her own feelings of hopelessness, despair and so many unanswered questions. This is why I became involved in this families life as their in-home worker. They needed help. After taking a moment, this mother was able to tell me how she overcame and was able to achieve her goals for her family and for herself.
Just as a a farmer does not harvest their crops in a day, she recognized she needed to be patient. She acknowledged most changes are small and sometimes not immediately noticeable. When discouraged, which she admits was often, she persevered and did what she knew was right as a parent even though at times things became worse. Focusing on her desired outcome of a healthy, happy family served as a guide.
One way her children learned to trust was through her own consistency in parenting them. Their past world had been marred by fear and instability. She saw this begin to fade away as she matched her words and her actions and she followed through with her expectations for them. She became her children's rock, enabling them to be able to reach out with a new found confidence in what can be a scary world at times. They knew she would be there for them.
We would never expect a soldier to go out to battle on their own, however many times we expect parents to figure it out on their own. This mother realized how unrealistic this was. She saw she could not expect herself to engage in life's battles by herself. She listed close friends who offered support, help, suggestions and a place to vent as her support system and light during dark times. Without them, this mother said she would not have experienced the level of success she was able to achieve.
As we concluded our time working together, this mother thanked me for my help over the past two years. She shared, while my ideas and parenting suggestions were appreciated, it was my encouraging words that were the most beneficial. Those words served like water to a thirsty person, nourishment to help her become the parent and person she wanted to be.
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