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Parenting Guide Sheets
1. Parenting is for Life?

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Introduction to this Page

These pages are here to help you, if you are a parent or a potential parent, to think through some of the crucial issues in parenting, to try and minimise some of those problems.
This particular page introduces you to the idea of life-time parenting and considers how families have changed. It goes on to ask you to realise that you are not alone in raising your children. Then it challenges us to consider the possibilities – negative and positive – what we can do and what we can achieve depending on how we think.
We hope you will find this introductory page helpful. Please don’t just skim through it because if you do you won’t get the most out of it. It needs slowly reading and thinking about. It really is all about the way we view being a parent. We can suffer it or rejoice in the wonder of the possibilities and opportunities that being a parent opens up for us. 

1. A Lifetime of Parenting?
- awareness that once a parent always a parent – changing roles throughout life as a parent.
2. A Changing Landscape
- the different ‘family structures’ available today.      
3. The Question of Support
- who will be there for you to help you and your child.   
4. A Scary Scenario or Amazing Opportunities
- it all depends on the way we view our lives. How will we see being a parent?
5. Check out the Possibilities
- the options before you in the years to come
6. And so…
- a final encouragement

1. A Lifetime of Parenting?
Here is a concept to play with! Once you have conceived a child you will be a parent for the rest of your life until either you or they die.

Why? Because the definition of a parent is simply a father or a mother. However old your ‘child' is, you are still a parent.
When the child is an embryo in the womb, you are a parent-in-waiting.
When they are born you are a parent-in-action.
When they have left home and have a partner of their own, you are a parent-in-support.
When they have children of their own, you are still a parent-in-support, now what we call a grand-parent.
Throughout all these stages you are still a parent. What differs is the way you will express it.
- If you are a mother carrying the foetus, your child is totally reliant upon your body.
- When it is just born it is totally reliant upon your care.
- In its teenage years it starts ‘standing on its own two feet', declaring its individuality, still needing your care but making more and more of its own decisions.
- When it leaves home it is completely reliant on itself, but will still appreciate your presence in the background, there as a loving support, as and when needed.
Oh yes, parenting can be more than just for some limited few years.

2. A Changing Landscape

The last fifty years or so have seen incredible changes in family life, so much so that today it is difficult, as a parent-trainer to speak to any specific group.

Go back fifty years or so and yes, there were family upsets, there was infidelity, they were violent husbands, there were unwanted pregnancies and there were some divorces and rarely there were couples living together.

Without wishing to heap masses of statistics upon you, we may simply say that trying to identify marriage and subsequently parenting structures has become like trying to make sense of a constantly changing kaleidoscope. So, if we are thinking about children and parents today, the following are sufficiently common so that you could find many examples of each:

- children living with a single unmarried parent who has never had an ongoing relationship or partner,
- children living with a single unmarried parent who is the result of cohabiting break-up,
- children living with a single unmarried parent who is the result of a marriage divorce,
- children living with a cohabiting couple,
o who have always been together and are both the child’s parents, or
o only one of whom is the natural parent,
- children living with married parents.  

3. The Question of Support

Now a therapist or psychologist might suggest that all of the adults in those different family structures come with different ‘baggage’ but that is more about the adult and their emotions which may or may not have impact on the child.

From the child’s angle, numerous studies have shown that children of relationship breakdowns suffer emotional upheavals, even in so-called ‘good’ divorces. But this is not the key concern that we have when approaching parental guidance classes. The key issue becomes, “What support do you the parent have in bringing up your child?”

It IS possible to bring up a child well when you are alone. It is not, in our opinion, the best scenario but it is possible, and you can do it well.

We have known situations where a single parent (usually a woman), who has had no ongoing relationship with a partner, has made a better job of bringing up their child than a married couple where both parents are sold out to their careers and give little or no time to their child.

But in the kaleidoscope of relationship possibilities today, it is impossible to generalise over “what is best”. However we’re going to do it, but if this is not you, don’t switch off please! Wait for what follows.

Here, if you want a goal, is what we believe is the ideal scenario for raising children: there is a loving husband and a loving wife, who remain happily faithful to each other for the whole of their married lives, they talk out their problems and work together to maintain and even strengthen their relationship, and when children come along they are welcomed, loved and cared for, given time and attention and wise guidance and direction until they are able to stand on their own two feet and make their own wise life decisions and go off and develop their own lives and relationships fully. The parents remain in the background, without interfering but being there if called upon for support or counsel.

That, many of us will feel, is quite unreal, but what it does have is a strong element of support and so we come back to the key question we asked earlier, “What support do you the parent have in bringing up your child?” Even if you think you are alone, there will be those around you who you can call upon for help.  It may be a partner, it may be a grandparent, it may just be friends, it may be social workers or it may be teachers. All around us there will be people we need to be aware of, who can be part of our ‘support network’. We will need them, but we may first need to become aware of them.  

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