‘Being mindful, present are key skills every parent needs’
Vivian Okoye is the founder of Viviann Okoye Parenting Academy focused on training and equipping parents with the knowledge, tools, and skill set needed to take on the responsibility of parenting the 21st Century child. She is also the convener of Parents Summit Africa, an annual event for parents and caregivers to discuss relevant issues affecting parenting. Okoye who recently published her first book, ‘Your Toddler and You’, is a certified child psychologist and holds a degree in Optometry, she works with the Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria. She speaks to IJEOMA-THOMAS-ODIA on issues affecting parenting in the 21st century.
What is the essence of the parent summit, any particular issue it is addressing?
The general belief is that once you have a child, the instinct kicks in and you are automatically able to parent but this is not the case. Many parents have real issues and struggles with parenting but because we live in a society where shaming is a culture, which has led to the culture of silence too, many parents are skeptical to talk about their struggles. We created the parent summit to be that platform where we have conversations, share our stories, encourage and support each other to do better in our parenting journey.
Does parenting require a skill?
Of course! Parenting requires lots of skills. The skills required evolve as your child evolves, so every parent should be ready to keep an open mind, a teachable spirit willing to learn, relearn and unlearn throughout this journey. Personally, I do not pass by any opportunity to learn something new and you know your greatest teacher on this journey are your kids. As much as you are there to teach them, they are equally there to teach you, but you will not learn if you haven’t mastered the act of presence. Being a mindful and present parent is a key skill every parent needs. Also, communication is an important skill. It’s one thing to communicate and another to communicate effectively, the latter takes conscious learning efforts.
What drives you?
I am driven by love, purpose and fear. Love for my nation, clarity of purpose and conviction that I am sent to this world to be a solution. Also, the fear of what becomes of the next generation if I do nothing about our current state drives me.
In this era of social media and too much Internet exposure, how should parents ensure that their wards are kept safe?
The Internet is a good thing as much as it is a bad thing or rather can be a distraction. It all depends on how you put it to use. Internet affords us many tools that we can use to teach our children and, at the same time, its side-effects are numerous. Balance is very key. Internet has come to stay, we cannot deny that and we cannot totally alienate our children from it so balance and parental control is very key. In addition, parents should also watch their own Internet and screen habits because to teach correct living without living correctly is hypocrisy and would definitely cause those you are leading to rebel. So it all starts with you.
What in your opinion are parents not getting right with their children?
Many parents are letting their childhood experiences affect the way they parent. You have parents who say “my parents did a great job, afterall I turned out well,” so they choose their parents’ parenting methods mostly unconsciously forgetting that the child they have is a different child and that we are in a different time. We also have parents who believe or feel that their parents didn’t do enough, so they either become too strict or too permissive just in the quest to fill the seeming void left by their parents. So parents should be mindful, present, conscious and intentional. Understand the child in front of you, heal from your past and find ways to be the best version of you for your child, in doing this, you will be modelling a life worthy of emulation and equally raising the best version of your child.
How can parents ensure there is a balance with raising their children and earning a living?
There may really never be a balance but there are seasons. Understand your seasons and work out ways to thrive in those seasons. There will be seasons when your children need the best of you, there would be seasons when you can dive neck-deep into career or work. Understand your season, develop a structure and get everyone on board. Personally in seasons when I know I will be swamped with work, I would either recruit my mum to cushion the effect or ensure that my husband is very available. So it all depends on your family structure and the season of life you find yourself in. It is not necessarily the number of hours you spend with the children at home that counts but the quality of time and how present and attentive you are.
Tell us about your new book what led you to writing it?
My book, Your Toddler and You, is an incredible piece for every young parent who wants to understand how to handle their child’s tantrums and also how to avoid power tussles without shrinking their child or losing themselves. I remember struggling with my daughter’s tantrums, as she is a strong-willed child. I took on a journey to learn how best to handle such behaviour because I understood that she was made strong-willed for a reason. Her strong-willed nature may be a headache for me at her early years, but it will come in handy later in her life against peer pressure and all sorts. I certainly knew I needed to nurture and not break that her nature. So my journey to finding best solutions and documenting birthed the book.
As a mum, author, speaker, mentor and professional, how do you juggle responsibilities?
To be honest, it is never easy especially for someone like me with a trait of perfectionism which makes it hard for people like us to multitask but then, learning how to plan, time management, creating structure in my home and leveraging all the support available to me has made it easier. I never miss an opportunity to delegate or outsource responsibilities that can be handled by team members, friends or other members of the family while focusing my strengths on tasks and responsibilities that need my undivided attention per time. Also, sometimes I get plain overwhelmed, at such times I completely shut down and take a break to rejuvenate.
What key message do you have for women especially as homemakers?
My message for women especially intending mothers is simple and straight. Invest time and energy in understanding yourself and your purpose, then invest time and energy again in learning the best ways to love and care for yourself. Until you learn this, you will have limited capacity to love the people in your care and will not be capable of leading your seeds into a purposeful life. So in simple terms, take on a journey of self-awareness and transformation. Take it seriously.
How do you relax?
Typical relaxation for me is fun day out with friends, having interesting conversations over drinks and food and laughing our hearts out. I also love talking and listening to deep but quirky conversations.
QUOTE: Parenting requires lots of skills. The skills required evolve as your child evolves, so every parent should be ready to keep an open mind, a teachable spirit willing to learn, relearn and unlearn throughout this journey
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