Did you ever hear “wait until you are a parent?” It took becoming a parent for me to grasp the scope of commitment and sacrifice, expense and rewards of being a parent. A proud mum of my nearly 9 year old girl (following her passion for soccer being recently selected for the Western Bay of Plenty rep team, and doing very well academically at school), I feel relieved as a solo parent, that although there is the additional expenses that come with this, her natural abilities for success isn’t something I will probably need to spend sleepless nights over.

But I ask, is that what success is all about? I am currently working on finding, celebrating and appreciating the parts of me that are from my parents and are positive and serve me well in life, whilst picking out the parts of my upbringing that don’t serve me and I need to work on. And that includes working on my communication with my child.

I can now appreciate that my parents brought me up with the tools that they had at the time and no one is perfect or has a manual. I now understand learning from my past is essential to how I manage my life, and shape our future. I am on a passionate journey of self discovery that I have come to realise is just as much about finding happiness within myself, as it is about being the kind of parent that my daughter needs in order to become her potential. This means working on finding my own self worth, valuing, honoring and respecting self and others, blocking out outside voices that cause confusion when I am much better served by listening to my own intuition – and teaching my daughter to do this. This grows the type of success I am passionate about for our family.

This has become particularly relevant for me as I began studying a Bachelor of Social Work this year. I can see that regardless of whether I become a social worker or not, this course will transform my ways of being and doing with my family. My biggest learning has been the awareness of how listening genuinely, respect (including valuing and honouring and having non-judgmental positive regard) and genuine empathy can transform the quality of relationships and be the difference between a positive or negative outcome. I thought it sounded simple and obvious and natural to expect, but actively putting it in to practice highlighted how easy it is to be distracted and epicly fail at this. To do so truly, genuinely, authentically, actively at all times, and this isn’t easy for a solo parent wearing the many hats we do.

communication with your child

A case in point that you might also relate to: My daughter was chatting away as she does, in the car one day and I was very aware that I could just hear a humming noise of the vibrations of her voice and barely conscious of the words that were coming out. I decided to be brutally honest (whether right or wrong) and said nicely “I am sorry Rosie, but to be honest I am really not listening to you right now. I am trying to drive and concentrate and all I can hear is the sound of your voice, not your words. A lot of parents say “mhmm”, “yes”, “ok” as if they are listening, when really they are focused on something else. Does that sound familiar? I went on to ask her, “Would you rather I was honest about it or pretend?” She said I would rather you were honest.

In these scenarios, listening is not authentic and genuine. I felt excited that I have the power to really improve my relationship with my daughter, and still have enough years before those crucial teenage years to make change. By making an active effort to apply this, I can already see the benefits between my daughter and me.

I am passionately focused about building family foundations that my daughter (in years to come) will want to come home to. A family that she won’t have to spend years recovering from. A relationship based on clear communication, knowing she can safely voice her opinion and it be okay and we can discuss issues without judgment or devaluing her worth or mine, and that I love her unconditionally.

It’s time to develop confidence, and be genuinely actively authentically passionate about communication with my daughter right now. With suicide so prevalent in our society, getting better at this later on when my girl is in the middle of something big could be too late to pull up my big girl panties and expect her to value honour and respect what I have to say. Now is the time for passionate communication with my child.

 

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Michelle Woolley is a qualified nanny, has worked in hospitality, accounts and advertising, and is now studying Bachelor of Social Work full-time, working part-time as a support worker for people with disabilities. In her teens, she volunteered at kids' camps and listened to real life stories, dried the tears of many young girls struggling with living in a broken family. She didn’t realise that one day she would be drying the tears of her own child while parenting alone. Join her as she writes about her journey.

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