Is there a way to avoid transferring our fears, insecurities, and unfulfilled dreams onto our children?
Philip Larkin sums it up pretty well in his poem, This be The Verse. "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had, and add some extra, just for you." He follows it with conclusion that the only sane way out of passing it on is "Get out as early as you can, and don’t have any kids yourself".
This is an apt advice, but too late for us – we already have kids. How to make sure we are not transferring our fears, insecurities and unfulfilled dreams on our children? What can we do to avoid repeating the pattern of what our parents inflicted on us – albeit under the noble banner of ‘we just want you to be happy darling’?
They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you.
First, let’s acknowledge the complexity of the situation. We are expected to figure out who our children are and what they need to be happy (no manual provided at birth). We are expected to make decisions that will affect our child’s future.
It is a huge responsibility to accept that our choices will determine their education, health, ability to relate to others. Parenthood falls perfectly into the definition of stress- inducing situation - ‘a lot of responsibility and little control’
Here are some tips to follow to make sure that those pressures do not take away from the enjoyment of every day parenthood (and childhood) and that we and our children make the most of this unique challenge.
As often as you can... congratulate yourself for being a good parent (because it is true!)
Just the fact you are reading this article shows that you are conscientious, caring and concerned. You do your best to make sure your child is happy.
Even if sometimes it feels like things are going ‘in the wrong direction’ it doesn’t mean you did anything ‘wrong’. It may just mean your child is asserting their right to be happy – in their own way. On this occasion we are being judged by your intentions – results are often out of our control.
Make time in the week to acknowledge that you are a good parent, write down examples, talk to your partner or friend about it.
As often as you can... congratulate yourself for having a wonderful child, and take time to get to know them
Aren’t they just a miracle? With their own mind, ideas, opinions – no matter how preposterous or annoying; going through each day facing their own challenges and dilemmas we are not even a part of any more, from as early as the nursery age.
They are an independent being, someone who we know so well from their first breath, and on the other hand someone we don’t know at all. Once we realise that, we will notice which of our actions and choices are perhaps driven by our desires and passions, not theirs. We will understand that what is a success for us may not mean the same to our child.
Can you remember how your parents perhaps ‘didn’t get you?’ Take time to observe your child, see how different they are from you. Embrace, enjoy and celebrate these differences.
As often as you can... remind yourself that you are not a creator of your child’s life and future
We are merely guardians – providing basic frameworks and boundaries, teaching them about how to be human, only for our child to bounce off and rebel against; and suppliers – responsible for meeting their basic needs for shelter, food, and love. It is up to them to fill the rest with their own trials, tribulations, mistakes and successes.
Always try and... accept that mistakes are an inevitable part of parenthood
This is a great counterbalance to the inbuilt sense of responsibility for our children’s future. It allows us to understand that the decisions we make for them are always to our best knowledge at the time, but they are not necessarily the best forever.
If your child has grown with the sense of their own strength and agency, they will make their own choices which will ultimately correct, straighten or even overturn our decisions. Paraphrasing a great poet’s words – it is inevitable that we will make mistakes. It is then their job to undo that ‘damage’ which is actually called ‘growing up’.
If we accept our shortcomings as parents and trust that our best intentions and efforts are the best we can offer, if we believe and trust in strength, resilience and magic of a growing a human soul, we will be able to relax more and enjoy that amazing process - and our children be able to enjoy having us as parents.
Discover more about stress as well as Parental Stress and the Impact on Children on Counselling Directory, or try these Five Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Rght Now. Get our latest, free stress resources for kids, teens, parents and teachers created in collabortion with Counselling Directory and Happiful Kids.