You love your kids – they’re very special and have some delightful characteristics. But lately they're getting on your nerves more and more. It’s the constant fighting that’s wearing you down. And the sense of entitlement, coupled with a lack of gratitude. Sammy got pyjamas on Tuesday, as he needed them, but Noah is demanding that he gets some too. He’s all good for PJs but you’re going to buy him some more just to keep the peace.

Getting out the door in the morning is a real grind. The kids drag their feet when you ask them to get ready for school. Getting them to bed is just the same – they ramp it up every night and all you can see is your quiet evening disappearing as you wrangle them into bed for the tenth time. 

You love going to work, but half your colleagues don’t have kids themselves and don’t really understand your life. If you turn up late you get ‘the look’, and when you go home you feel you need to constantly stay in touch with work emails. 

You feel pulled in every direction. And then there’s your parents quietly suggesting you are doing too much. Oh, and reminding you that they wish they saw more of the grandkids.  

As a family coach, I get the privilege of working with parents who are passionate about their kids and work tirelessly to give them a great life. Often, these parents are feeling a bit ‘bruised’ from trying so hard, yet still feeling stuck, unappreciated, guilty or that they’re not enough. The love is there – but it is hard to do the big job of parenting when you feel overwhelmed and stretched.

Another way I describe this is using the ‘bandwidth’ analogy, but not in terms of electronics or car radios with a frustratingly limited range if the vehicle is an import. Rather, the energy or mental capacity available to you to deal with life and all its complexities. In human terms, bandwidth is about how much flex and capacity you have in the emotional tank to manage what might come your way on any given day. 

Bandwidth is about how much flex and capacity you have in the emotional tank to manage what might come your way on any given day.                

Sensing some tension

Children are great bandwidth detectors. They kind of just know how we adults are doing. They sense that finances are a bit wobbly, for example, or that Dad’s job is less than certain. They see stuff, but because they are kids, they may not interpret it that well and they silently worry. Their behaviour, however, can start to communicate their distress. 

There is a great opportunity in coaching to not only acknowledge the big challenges parents face, but also support parents to find a way to increase their bandwidth so they feel more confident that they’ve got the capacity and the strength to manage the stress. Learning new parenting techniques is great, but it also helps to find out why we feel so short on capacity.

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What’s going on?

Practically speaking, simply noticing that your bandwidth is reduced is a great place to start. Figuring out what is missing and thinking about how those needs can be met is the next helpful step. Here are some ideas that I’ve found to be great bandwidth extenders.

  1. Someone to talk to. Talking it through with a trusted friend or professional counsellor – someone who is ‘in your court’ – can reassure you that your feelings make sense and that you are not alone. It can also help you gain insights into what’s going on at a deeper level. 
  2. Resources and tools. Parenting throws you in the deep end but there is help to be had from a variety of sources. Doing a parenting course, seeing a coach, attending a talk – getting amongst reliable ideas and insights can be a lifeline. Simply sitting in a room full of people who also have a tricky child can be very reassuring – knowing that others are struggling too and you’re not alone.
  3. Create some space. No matter how hard we try to fit in more and more and more, each day stubbornly remains only 24 hours long. It’s okay to drop some things, especially when we simply don’t have time to do it all. This could be the season to reduce work hours, cut some after school activities and politely say no to all the ‘little extras’ that are asked of busy, capable parents. Having less on your plate can make it easier to breathe – and you need lots of oxygen to do life well. 
  4. A nature fix. Research has confirmed our need to be replenished by nature. Getting out each day amongst the trees, the wind and the waves can be the tonic that tops you up.  
  5. Play! Extending your bandwidth can also look like taking some time just for you. You may have put off having fun because there’s no energy left by the time you have filled up everyone else’s cup up – but what if you did a bit of a rearrange? You read your book before you do the things on your to-do list. You delegate some household chores. You leave the office in time to go to the gym. You walk somewhere instead of driving because you needed the peace and the sunshine. You get a babysitter and go out for dinner with your partner. The benefits of self-care are profound and everyone around you reaps them too.  
  6. Kind, Firm, Calm. One of my favourite terms to use when I am coaching is Kind, Firm, Calm. Each action is as valuable as the other and when we can do all three together, we provide a safe and secure foundation for children to lean on. Interestingly, we struggle to be ‘KFC’ with our kids when we don’t first treat ourselves in the same way first. So, coach yourself with gracious kindness (speak to yourself the way you’d speak to your best friend!), with encouragement to firmly hold the line, and gentle reminders about the benefits of staying calm.

Doing life with these precious little people is not always a walk in the park – and it does involve more sacrifice and sweat than perhaps any of us realised pre parenthood. I love encouraging parents in my coaching role – especially encouraging them to take care of themselves so their bandwidth can do its job of supporting the vital work of raising the next generation.

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale is our Senior Family Coach and we’ve been lucky enough to have her on our team for over 20 years. She’d love to raise free-range chickens, write children’s books and perhaps even take up horse-riding again.


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