Is It Normal to Not Want to Be Around Your Child Sometimes? What This Feeling Means, and What You Can Do About It
Being a parent is hard. And no one, truthfully speaking, is in love with being a parent 100% of the time. Almost every parent I’ve worked with, at one point or another, has shared with me their feelings about times when they have not wanted to be near their kids.
Feelings like shame, embarrassment, self-worth also get wrapped up in there. These feelings typically all stem to the fear about not being a good enough parent.
Sound familiar? If so, then I’m here to tell you - it’s normal. Between our kids calling for us every 5 minutes, not going to bed on time, seemingly crying all the time, it’s no wonder we want a break. Especially, if we haven’t had our own time to tend to our own needs.
The problem is not in having such feelings but in when we try to push it away. Pushing our feelings away can cause it to build up, which can make us dread being around our children. It may also lead to us lashing out verbally or physically on our kids– especially if that’s what you witnessed your own parents do when growing up. In my household growing up, it was the chancleta or la correa that did the lashing out. :)
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Today, I’m going to talk about why this happens, and what you can do about it.
Why don’t I want to be near my child?
Feeling fed up with being around your kid(s) can mean many things. But it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent.
Whether they admit it or not, every parent has had moments when they just don’t want to be a parent anymore. For some, these moments are brief and fleeting. For others, they can last for a lot longer. Either way, it’s normal to feel this way.
Not wanting to be around your child is usually a sign that you’re overwhelmed. Parental burnout, sometimes called depleted mother syndrome, is what happens when a parent (of any gender) has run out of resources. They feel like they just don’t have anything left to give. They’re exhausted.
Not wanting to be around your child could also be due to anxiety. It’s so hard to know if you’re doing parenting “right.” We often worry about details like “are they meeting their developmental milestones?, to “are they getting too much electronic time?”
Our parenting world today is so inundated with advice/recommendations from others about what our kids should be doing. So, forgive yourself if you want a break from trying to "follow" all the recommendations on how to raise a “good” human being.
Not wanting to be around your child can also be due to something as simple as being extra-exhausted, hungry or not wanting to be bossed around. Let’s face it, children can be bossy and sassy when they are defiant. And for some of us, it can be a trigger.
Again, not wanting to be around your kids sometimes is normal and does not mean that there is something wrong with you.
There is a point, however, when you may want to reach out for help - like if you’re feeling like this for more days than not. Or, if you find yourself changing into someone you are not. At this point, you should reach out for support.
While it could just be a sign for needing to emotionally vent, it could also be a sign of an underlying mental health condition, like depression. Having depression doesn’t make you a bad parent, either – but it does mean that you need mental health treatment to get better.
What to do when you don’t want to be around your kids
Like I talked about last month, no one wants to lose it on their kids. But if you just ignore the fact that you don’t want to be around them, then that irritation and resentment is bound to build up – and you could explode.
Before things get to that point, here are some steps to take.
When you feel yourself getting more and more irritated with your kids, take a moment and ask yourself - What is making me want to get away from my kid(s) in this moment? Am I feeling overwhelmed? Do I just need a moment to myself? Are my kids getting on my last nerve, and I want to get away from them because I'm about to snap? Am I you just exhausted, and want some quiet time?
It can be helpful to get to the root of the feeling. Sometimes, it’s an easy fix.
You can also use a brief pause to take a few mindful breaths in and out. Many mindfulness teachers say that taking just three breaths in and out is enough to bring you back to the present moment. If you’re getting lost in worries, anger, or exhaustion, this could be a way to come back to yourself.
Ask for some space
It doesn’t occur to most parents that they’re allowed to ask for space and time away from their kids. But it’s true – you can! And sometimes, getting some space away from them is the best way to start wanting to be around them again.
Now granted, I know that the first few times you do this, your kid(s) is probably going to kick it into high gear and cling to you. My challenge to you, try it for at least six times. Here are some ways to try it:
If your child is old enough (5+), let them know you need some time. Say something like:
“Right now I’m ______ (tired, angry, frustrated). I love you so much, and that’ll never change. But I need some time to _____ (take a shower, be quiet, to be alone, etc.) This isn’t your fault, and I’m not angry with you. I just need some time to ______, so I calm down. Can you do that for me?”
If you need more than just a short rest, you can also consider spending a bigger chunk of time away - like for the day or if you are blessed with resources, an overnight trip. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even going to a movie by yourself could help.
As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. After some time away from your kid(s), you might feel like you want to be around them again.
Remember to play
We tend to take parenting very seriously. And this is a wonderful thing – parenting is serious! We’re responsible for a young human’s life, after all.
But don’t take it so seriously that you forget to play. If you can find ways to have fun with your children, then you might find it easier to be around them even in stressful times.
Dr. Stuart Brown, a researcher and the founder-president of the National Institute for Play, stresses the importance of play, even for adults. He says that play is a natural human behavior – as natural as sleep – but most of us aren’t getting enough of it, especially in adulthood.
Instead of seeing time with your kids as a time for them to play, try to see it as a time for you to play, too. Get silly. Make funny faces. Laugh. Play made-up games with made-up rules.
You might find that the desire to get away from your kids fades when you’re able to have fun with each other.
Join my virtual parent support group
It can also sometimes be validated and heard by other parents who’ve also been through it or are going through it. In my virtual parent support group, we focus on:
If you’re interested, give me a call.
Thank you for reading. You’ve got this. I’ll see you next month!
September has arrived, and kids everywhere headed back to school. No matter how well-prepared you are, back-to-school season is most likely a little chaotic – and that’s okay!
But there’s another thing about back-to-school that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough: the relief many of us feel.
All summer long, your kids have been home with you. Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But let’s be real: having your kids home can also be a lot of other things, like:
… and so much more. If you’re at your wit’s end by the time back-to-school comes around, that’s totally understandable – and you’re not alone! I see so many parents in and out of my practice, who have been saying the same thing:
“I feel so relieved that my child is going back to school. I feel sad too, but I’m just so tired of losing it on them. I needed a break so bad.”
Sound familiar? If you’ve been “losing it” on your kids this summer, try not to feel guilty about it. We’ve all been there; kids know how to push our buttons, and they’ve had plenty of time to do so while they were home from school.
As a mom to a child who entered school for the first time this year, I was soooo looking forward to drop off time. Truth be told, I even came home and did a happy dance!
Not a happy dance because I’m "rid of her", but happy because now I have a chunk of time to myself. Time to do whatever I please without having to coordinate my self care with anyone else. Time to commute with my own thoughts. Any even more of a relief - time to myself that I don’t have to pay for!
While it’s important to let go of any guilt and be kind to yourself, many parents do reach out to me asking for tips on how not to lose it. Losing your patience with your kid never feels good and it’s not something that most of us parents want to do.
We want and strive to stay calm and collected through any disagreement. We want to remember to take a breath when we’re ticked off. We want to patiently look into our child’s eyes and explain to them why what they’re doing is wrong. Right?
Yes, but the reality is it can be a hard ask to stay calm and collected all of the time as a parent. There are, however, some tips and tools you can use to help yourself keep calm and control your anger – most of the time.
The next time you’re seeing red, try these things.
1. Take a deep breath and reset.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. A breath deep enough that your belly gets pushed out as far as it can. You may also want to say something like,
“I’m feeling really frustrated right now, and I don’t want us to fight. I need to pause and take a few deep breaths before we continue.”
Bonus point alert - doing it in front of your child is also showing them what they can do when they are overwhelmed.
Once you have taken your breaths, check in with the anger inside you. Chances are, you will notice a shift in how much you want to lose it on them. From there you should be able to continue the conversation.
2. Know your weaknesses, and do something about them.
When I say “weaknesses,” I’m not talking about physical strength. I mean the other factors in your life that make it more likely that you lose your patience to begin with.
For example, sleep is a big one. When we don’t sleep enough, we’re more likely to be irritable and depressed – the research proves it! Other factors that could make you lose patience more easily could be not eating enough (or not eating the right things), being under a lot of stress, and having conflicts in other relationships (like in your marriage, friendships, family, etc.).
Pay attention to these triggers. Practice self-awareness. Notice when you’re in the “danger zone” – a physical or mental state that makes you irritable and more likely to “lose it” with your kids.
Once you know what your triggers are, do something about them. Practice self-care when it’s possible. Get restful sleep. Manage your stress. Do whatever it takes to get out of that danger zone.
3. Practice self-forgiveness.
I can’t stress this enough. Forgive yourself for the occasional slip-up. Without a doubt, the worst part of losing your patience with your kids is the horrendous guilt that comes afterward. No one enjoys fighting with their children. But arguments are a normal part of parenting. No one is in love with being a parent (or their children) every single moment.
Blaming and hating yourself for becoming angry won’t help anyone. Instead, practice self-forgiveness. First, take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. Let your mind go back to whatever happened between you and your child. If there’s any damage to be repaired or apologies to be made, prioritize that.
Then, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend who is going through the same situation. You might say something like,
“I know that you feel bad about losing it on (insert your child's name). You’re human, not a superhero. You’re going to make mistakes sometimes. You are not bad person or a bad parent. You’re doing your best. You can learn from this and you will get better.”
If your anger or guilt feels out of control, then you might benefit from joining my parent support group. As a therapist, I work with all sorts of different parents. They all have one thing in common – they love their children more than anything, and want to be the best person they can be for them. I bet that’s true for you, too.
As always, thanks for reading. And congratulations on making it to the end of summer!
Recently I sent out a survey inquiring about issues parents wanted help with. The feedback I received entailed learning how to manage tantrums, dealing with resistance to transitions and coping with parent guilt.
As each parenting situation is different, I thought it be best to start off with listing a few books I believe are helpful to any parent who wants to feel more in control and less guilty.
1) Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell - The essence of this book is to help you as a parent understand the science behind your emotions and how your childhood is currently influencing your parenting.
What I loved about this book is how much it normalizes what many of us parents are feeling at one point or another. I also loved the parental self-reflection exercise that personally gave me an opportunity reflect on who I was as a child. Forewarning- this part was difficult, at least for me, because it did tap into some pain from my childhood. Be that as it may, I strongly encourage every parent to consider the importance of some of these questions. Once you decide to take on the questions in this book, be sure to also bring a notebook and a box of tissues.
2) Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté - this book is geared to parents who are interested in learning how to keep their child close especially during the teen years.
What I love - it gives hope to those of us who believe it is normal for teens to detach from us and want nothing to do with us. It also informs us of how certain behaviors from toddlerhood end up feeding into this sense of teenage detachment. I also love how real it is about topics surrounding peer pressure and sexuality.
What I don't love about this book is some of the verbiage that may spark insecurities within a parent. There were moments where I thought some people might feel like they are being shamed. Overall though, I would recommend parents read this book even if you don't have a teenager yet because laying the foundation now with your young child can help make things better by the time they reach the tween and teen years.
3) Parenting with Theraplay by Vivien Norris and Helen Rodwell - this book is particularly helpful in understanding how children and parent attach anmd detach both verbally and non-verbally.
What I love about this book - it explains four different ways we can connect with each other, signs to look for that indicate we are having trouble connecting and games we can play with our child to help facilitate a stronger bond.
What I don't like about this book is how overwhelming it may be for some parents because of how much information it provides through the lens of a therapeutic approach that some may not be familiar with. Guidance from a therapist trained in Theraplay can help with reducing any sense of overwhelm. I would recommend this book for any parent who is looking for tips/strategies on how to connect with your child and feel more in control as a parent.
Overall, there is no shortage of parenting books on the market. The three aforementioned, are ones that have helped me on my parenting journey and as a result I have recommended to some of the parents I worked with and have seen it help them.
Would you like to share you the names of books that have helped you on your parenting journey? Feel free to share them below.
If you are you interested in taking the survey to let me me know how I can help you, click here.
Thank you for reading!
Christine M. Valentín
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