I remember someone sharing a parenting saying with me when I was an exhausted, sleep-deprived new mother. It went something like this, “Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems.” I’ve since heard it a few more times as a teacher, as a parent and as a PCI Certified Parent Coach®. With this saying in mind, I asked a professional counselor who has worked with adolescents and parents on “big problems” for her insights.
If you’re anything like me, you might be curious about what a school counselor’s thoughts are on parenting tweens and teens in our global age. What challenges do we potentially face as parents? What challenges are facing our youth today?
I asked Simone Courso to share her professional counseling insights and experiences with the Global Wise Parenting community on questions like these. I think you’ll find this special five-part Q&A a valuable resource for parenting in the 21st century.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your multilingual background and your professional work as a counselor.
A: I grew up in Alsace, a province of France that was invaded by Germany during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. People of Alsace speak Alsatian, a German dialect, as well as French. After the 2nd World War there was a strong surge in nationalism in Alsace and no one wanted to be identified as being German, therefore people started speaking French more, and it was even forbidden to speak Alsatian at school. In fact, Alsatian is slowly dying out. While the rest of my family is fluent at it, I never spoke it but understand everything. This helped me a lot when I moved to the German part of Switzerland, and until this day, I feel more comfortable speaking Swiss-German than German. I learned German and English at school for many years but the emphasis was very much on writing. My fluency in both languages improved when I met my husband who grew up in California, and made friends from Germany since my children attended the Swiss-German school in Bangkok. I had to learn Thai which, at first, looked like an impossible task, but after going to Thai classes for a few months, I made some progress and now I can express myself fairly well.
After a few years in Bangkok, once my children didn’t need my full attention anymore, I decided to become a counselor. I went back to school and was lucky to get a job as a middle school counselor in one of the main international schools in Bangkok. Later on we moved to Hong Kong, and there again I worked as a counselor, also in middle school. All in all, I’ve worked with middle school students for 14 years and high school students for four years.
Q: One of the big challenges for many parents is taking time to nurture themselves. What are some suggestions you have for parents interested in meeting their core needs while leading a busy life with children?
A: Everyone has basic needs. If you look up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll see them as Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization needs. Without going into details it becomes very clear that many parents neglect to nurture some of these needs, and the result is that they become excessively frustrated and start taking their frustration out on their children or partner.
Liliane Holstein, a French psychoanalyst, just published a book called Burn Out Parental. She describes parental burnout as a slow accumulation of frustration and disillusion that can affect mothers as well as fathers. There is no difference between a parent at home that suffers from isolation and a working parent who is stressed out both at work and at home. She explains that children perceive this frustration and might become more demanding and irritable. In more severe cases they might even become anxious and depressed.
What does she suggest?
- You don’t have to be the perfect parent. If you feel that you don’t have a handle on your emotions anymore when raising your children, speak to your partner, ask for help even if you’re the one at home all day and he/she’s at work.
- Set priorities.
- Learn to delegate tasks.
- And lastly, if you have a feeling that none of the above is helping, then speak to a parenting coach or a counselor.
I really like Holstein’s advice and must admit that I would have welcomed her suggestions when I was a mother of three with a husband constantly traveling for work and no family nearby.
Some of us are lucky and live in a society where help is provided in the home. It makes it easy to get a break from the children without having to worry about them. Many mothers and fathers though raise children on their own, without help from the family, and if this is your case, I strongly suggest that you find someone that you feel you can trust to look after your children, even if it’s only once a week.
Remember that it is quality time with your children that counts, not quantity.
Just like you need time away from your children from time to time to be a better parent, you also need to find time to be alone with your partner. It takes time to form an intimate relationship and effort to nurture it.
Q: Finally, what impact do you think consistent attention to parental self-care can have on a parent’s sense of wellbeing and on their effectiveness as a parent?
A: As I said earlier, if you don’t take care of your own needs, you will soon get frustrated and your children will feel it, either subconsciously or because you will act or speak in a way that is detrimental to your family. Again, it’s about quality, not quantity. If you have time for yourself and feel accomplished, you will have more patience for your children and instead of losing your temper, you will find the right tone and the right words when you have to discipline them.
Simone Courso was born in Alsace, a province in the Eastern part of France. With her husband and her three children she has lived in Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Simone has a Masters Degree in Linguistics and in Counseling Psychology, and is certified with the National Board of Certified Counselors in the U.S. For the last 18 years she has been working in international schools counseling and supporting students and their parents mainly in the areas of cross-cultural adjustment, difficulties with relationships, stress, sadness and self-harming. In her free time Simone likes to travel and explore new countries and cultures, read, watch movies, or simply spend time with her family.