The only way I know to fully connect with my children and feel completely fulfilled as a parent is to keep my heart wide open and attuned to whatever is going on for them. I am blessed to be invited to share in the details of their lives: their worries, stresses, pain and struggles alongside their joy, excitement, accomplishments and discoveries. It is in these details that I really know and understand my children, and recognise their needs.
A close parent-child connection helps to give children a deep-felt sense that they are safe, cared for and valued and this bond is strengthened each time we respond to our children’s need for comfort and show sensitivity to their feelings. As parents we want to reinforce these positive experiences regularly. This healthy attachment helps our children feel secure and loved and consequently grow into optimistic, happy adults with a positive self-image and good emotional control.
Having a close relationship with our children means we get an up close look at their world and their experiences within it. Whether it be managing playground bullying, overcoming fear of the dark or coping with a family crisis, a child’s worries are concerning to parents. We naturally want to take away the pain, make it better or set it right and the desire to protect our children can make us susceptible to overparenting and becoming overprotective, particularly when our own anxieties are triggered.
Our children’s struggles may trigger memories of traumatic events in our own lives, or unresolved feelings about our own past interactions, so we find ourselves unconsciously caught up in our own stories when dealing with theirs. Concerns over our children often mask our own displaced anxieties.
Self-awareness and self-observation can help parents to develop mindfulness. We need to check-in and look at how we are directing our attention. We need to identify what thoughts and emotions are coming up for us in the moment – anger, hurt, panic, etc. and resist the impulse to react to these. It is this practice that helps us change thinking patterns, manage behaviours and ultimately develop resilience.
Rising above our own anxiety helps to reduce our impulse to control outcomes for our children. When parenting with greater self- awareness we are better placed to raise resilient children.
How to practice resilient parenting
- Encourage independence. When children independently complete tasks, they learn to trust and appreciate their own skills and capabilities.
- Allow for uncertainty. Worry and anxiety show up when we try something new, different or challenging and rather than helping to remove the obstacles we want to encourage our children to confront them and learn to problem solve.
- Encourage a difference of opinion. Children who do not learn to stand up for themselves and express their own opinions are more inclined to conform to negative peer pressure.
Raising children presents us with a profound opportunity to grow and evolve as people. The love I have for my own children is a huge motivating factor in wanting to be a better person. I do not want to burden them with my old, unconscious behaviour patterns, nor impact them with my own insecurities.
Learning to manage our own fears and become more resilient enables us to create an environment that feels calm, stable and secure for our children and ourselves.