Dear Juggling Act,
Whether children are added by birth, by adoption, or through foster care, each child is unique and will have his/her own strengths and needs. It is critical that we understand what makes each child “tick”- what is their love language, what are their triggers, how do they learn best, and so forth. Once I truly know my child, I can parent in a way that works best for him/her. That said, one of our family’s most common “drive-bys” is “I’m going to make you a promise that I’ll NEVER break! I will NEVER be a fair mom – but, I’ll always meet your needs.”
Somehow current day parenting culture has convinced us that all parenting must be equal and fair. No wonder parents are stressed! I can balance the needs of different children in my home by using my energy to meet each child’s needs individually with no pressure to make sure everything is the same. I can also provide balance by focusing on relationship – relationship that occurs on a natural, day-to-day basis. You are only one person – you can’t be all things to all children. You can, however, maximize opportunities to meet individual needs.
Cooking dinner? Choose the child who needs your presence to help you. Work together, talk, and create memories. Doing laundry? Identify another child who can use your presence. I often work on projects in my bedroom. My children love to just come sit with me, and it has provided opportunity for good conversations in a relaxed atmosphere. Taking a walk? Identify your most active child and burn off some of his/her energy. Occasionally, we encounter that child who thinks they should have been born as an only child -they demand full attention at all times.
Don’t succumb to survival power plays. Make sure you are clear in your own mind on wants versus needs. Remember, you know your child the best, many times even better than that child who can be consumed by their survival brain. Meet each child’s needs. Teach them to defer wants. Be present. Model balance by knowing what you can and can’t do and when you can and can’t do it. Ask for help if you need it. Relax.
For children and families,