Parenting is like a puzzle (actually, it is more like the game of Whack-a-Mole but just stay with me here).  Successful puzzle building requires a bit of skill, a bit of strategy, a dash of luck and some extra eyes to help you find those tricky pieces.  Here is my 4-Step process for puzzle – family – building –

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Step 1.  Look at all of the pieces – Spread everything out on the table and get a look at what you’re working with.  What does the final, finished puzzle look like?  Where might the really tough places be – like those really hard beach scenes or the kind that are like a Where’s Waldo?

So take a look at your family – all of the members.  Get everyone around the table for a Family Council (food helps!) and really see everyone.  What do you want your family to look like?  Feel like?  Act like?  Do you and your spouse/partner/co-parent share a vision?  Who might struggle in certain areas and need extra support?  Where might the developmental tough spots be?

Step 2.  Next, put the border together – Find all the pieces that have edges and start to build the frame around the puzzle.  Pay close attention to the colors and lines so that you get the pieces going in the right direction.

Build a framework for your family.  Does everyone feel secure?  Are the rules of the family simple and easy to follow?  Does your family’s daily activity flow well or are you all overscheduled?  Do you have family, friends or neighbors that you can count on to help you when you need it?  If not, how do you find people to help you?  Pay attention to where the edges are for you – what feels good and what doesn’t.  That’s how you start to build your family foundation.

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Step 3.  Sort out all of the remaining pieces.  Put all the like colors together and find all of the pieces that make up the dog’s body or the tree trunk.  Is there a particular feature in the puzzle that has lots of pieces?  Or are there a ton of tiny items that need to be more carefully viewed?

Now look at the areas that need focus.  Does your daughter need skills to be able to accomplish her household chores?  As a parent, are you spending enough time on self-care so that you feel good?  For me, if I don’t have 30 minutes in the morning to take my vitamins, drink my lemon water with Cayenne pepper and look out the window, my day starts like a horse race and doesn’t slow down until I collapse into bed at night.  And how do you navigate the daily emotional ups and downs of a family?  Are there lots of feelings cropping up in sibling spats and dramatic meltdowns that need to be more deeply explored?

Step 4.  Finally, the puzzle is together.  Take a few minutes to look at the picture on the box and compare it to the puzzle formed on the table.  Do they match?  Did any of the pieces get sucked up by the vacuum?  That’s ok – you still get the overall effect.  And if you can’t quite fit those last few pieces into place (because they really go with a different puzzle, silly), keep trying.

Just like the puzzle with a few pieces missing, families are a work-in-progress.  Each time you mix up the pieces and get ready to rebuild, a couple may fall out of the box and you have to find them somewhere or just live with out them and move on.  Once you get a chance to look at the family all around you, take a few minutes to celebrate what you have created.  And things will go wrong.  They always do, but persevere in your efforts to build the family of your dreams.  It is absolutely possible – you just might need to call in reinforcements sometimes to help you “pick up the pieces”!

Be Wise!

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In my own family and in my work with hundreds and hundreds of parents, I often say this about parenting – 

Parenting is not a destination but a journey with lots of scenic overlooks and plenty of potholes and smelly rest stops along the way!  Take the time to enjoy the view!

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