Clinical Therapist * Mental Health Specialist * Media Expert

Everyone Has an Opinion on Parenting

THIS WEEK’S PARENT TRAP…

I have six kids — yup six! My husband and I always wanted a large family and while things are busy, loud and a little crazy, we love our brood. The problem is the amount of judgment we constantly face about it. “You must have been trying for a girl.” “Are you home-schooling your kids” and “you should invest in condoms!” are all comments we’ve heard! It’s ridiculous — now my kids are starting to pick up on this. And my eldest (15 years) is particularly resentful of our big family. Any ideas on how to help the kids deal with this?

Jessica, Victoria

YOUR TWO CENTS…

People can be casually insensitive about a lot of things, including the size of your family. Calmly responding, “this is the choice we made and we are happy with it” is enough. After that maybe a sit-down with your “brood,” to affirm the family is perfect the way it is.

Joe in Burnaby

People can be just ridiculous. I get the same comments about my adopted daughter who happens to have a different skin colour than me or my husband. I would flat tell them to mind their own business.

Karen, Langley

MICHELE KAMBOLIS SAYS…

Large families have never really gone away. While two is common, there are plenty more who have chosen bigger families, and with their eyes wide open. But when parents choose to go outside of the norm with a larger brood they can face all kinds of opinions and even criticism. Just think, an Amazon search on the topic of parenting will produce over 180,000 book listings — everyone has an opinion on parenting, including how many is too many. But what makes a resilient, thriving child has far more to do with parenting quality than it does sibling quantity.

Parenting style far outweighs the number of children when you look at outcomes for kids. Whether you have one child or six, the quality of interaction, the degree of love and affection, respect and encouragement, life skills and independence you provide all factor in as the most potent indicators of happier, healthier and better functioning children. Add how well you treat yourself and your spouse and you’ve hit all marks in terms of best parenting practices. The message here: keep the focus on what you know to be most important — your parenting presence.

Whenever something strikes a chord emotionally, keep in mind people are more curious than unkind. While I have no doubt that you’ve heard your fair share of thoughtless comments, operate from the assumption that people are trying to make a connection and simply understand. Parenting is deeply satisfying, but it’s a tough job for all of us; doubling or tripling the cooking, cleaning, driving and homework checking is mind boggling for most parents who are feeling already stretched with two.

Finally, arm your kids with tools to cope when those nastier comments come your way. This is a chance for them to learn that when people are offensive it has zero to do with them or your family; instead help them become clear about what they will tolerate and how they will manage these thoughtless interactions. Then list out the encouraging and positive remarks they’ve gathered along the way. While nasty comments have a way of sticking, you may find there’s been far more admiration than animosity.

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