Most parents need parental guidance at some time during their kids’ lives. Maybe they get their parenting tips from loved ones (whether it’s solicited or not) or they might get it from books or the Internet. Wherever the information comes from, searching for guidance on a particular challenge can be frustrating because it may not offer the insights you need to resolve your problem.
Sometimes the hardest obstacle to learning and growth as a parent and as a person is to have the ability to see the problem from another perspective. A perspective besides your own that isn’t too close to the issue at hand (because well-intentioned relatives aren’t always neutral/helpful/insightful). People can get so caught up in a story, there’s no room or distance to be aware of other possibilities or solutions. If you feel stuck, the future self exercise can help.
It’s so important to remember that your life’s challenges are solved on a different level than they were created!
Imagining your future self is an exercise that will help with parenting. For example your teen is acting out. Your usual way of handling this is to scream at them, then ground them. This begins a pattern of your teen acting out, you reacting, then grounding them, then they do something against the rules again, and the pattern continues. The problem won’t be solved within this cycle of repetition.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
The issue can be resolved by doing something differently. So, let’s bring in your future self here. Imagine yourself about 5 years from now with your teen–who is in their early 20s now. How would you like to look back on these teenage years in the future? What would your future self say to you? How can they assist you so you resolve your issues in a psychologically/emotionally healthy and loving manner? As your future self, imagine looking into the past (your present) and seeing how you could have handled the situation in a more positive and solution-focused way. Your future self can provide you with the clarity of seeing things from another perspective–it’s still your perspective, but from the future–and it might allow you to see that by you staying neutral and grounded it could help your interactions in a more beneficial way.
Another example might be that you are having issues with your toddler. They are driving you crazy! All you want is for the tantrums to stop. Every time they have one, it seems like you lose it, too. Take a moment to close your eyes. Relax for a moment and think about how your future self would look back on this time in your life. How would they handle it? How do you want to remember this time in your and your child’s life?
One of the benefits of hiring a counselor and/or a coach is to have the ability to tap into someone else’s perspective who is professionally trained to be (or they are supposed to be!) nonjudgmental, neutral, and grounded. If you don’t have access to one, if you are unresolved about an issue in your life, try this future self exercise.