Here are 8 things our children will wish we’d said to them
Parenting in 2020 is vastly different to forty or fifty years ago. These days we try to spend more quality time with our children (especially recently!) which is great for our relationships and for making memories. We also try to make their lives as easy and effortless as possible. But does this really help them? And what are we missing? Here are 8 things that our children will wish we’d said:
1 – “How do you feel?”
Many parents, despite being loving and caring never ask this question. Good parenting is not just about putting food on the table and shoes on their feet. We are emotional beings with a whole bunch of complicated and changing emotions. We should not overlook that part of our children. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of humanness. We need to have open conversations with our children about what they feel, helping them to understand that having uncomfortable feelings is a normal part of life
2 – “It’s OK to feel like that”
When our child (even adult child) feels sad, frightened, angry or upset, we need to validate them. Maybe we don’t want them to feel bad because we love them, but this undermines their feelings. Saying “Oh don’t be silly, you shouldn’t feel like that”, will be received like “there’s something wrong with feeling like that”. Let’s listen to what the emotion is about and let them know we’ve heard them. “Oh, that must be tough, I’m sorry”, is much more validating.
3 – “Watch me do it, and I will be here while you learn”
Many of us make the mistake of doing everything for our children. Yes, it undoubtedly originates from a place of love, sometimes impatience, but just think how terrifying the world will feel if they can’t deal with the basics. We need to show our child how to tie their shoelaces and watch them enjoy their triumph; let him speak to the shopkeeper and handle the transaction while we stand by. Don’t answer for our child when someone asks them a question. All these examples are basic life skills that will help our child to feel accomplished and will build courage and confidence.
4 – “You are not responsible for my happiness”
When our grown-up child chooses to spend time with friends, or go away for work, study or travel, let’s not saddle them with guilt about leaving us. If we remind ourselves that our job as parents is to help them to feel like capable adults, then encouraging them to go and live their lives is just part of the package. It’s a sign of healthy development and our blessing is the greatest gift we can give.
5 – “You can achieve great things, but there will be setbacks. Don’t give up”
Fear holds many adults back, and it may have come from early conscious or unconscious messages communicated to them. Words like “failure” imply that achievement should be plain sailing. We are all learning all the time and cannot expect to succeed at anything without some setbacks. Making our children aware that it’s all part of the journey will prepare them and give them strength to go forward.
6 – “Happiness is an inside job”
Disney has a lot to answer for! Of course, being part of a couple can enhance life. But it can never replace positive self-regard and is not the be-all-and-end-all. Our children’s lives will be far more rewarding if we teach them that happiness comes from inside first and foremost. Their relationships will be much more fulfilling as a result.
7 – “I will never criticise your other parent”
Children of divorced parents don’t want to hear our complaints about their other parent. No matter how bitter or angry we are, the person we are lambasting is their flesh and blood. Yes, we need to vent and offload our anger or pain, but we should do it with another adult, never our child, not even our adult child. They simply don’t want to hear it.
8 – “It’s OK to say ‘no’”
Having the courage to say “no” people will be one of our children’s greatest assets. (See boundaries) It will protect them from exploitation or living lives full of resentment. We don’t want them to discover one day that they had no control over their own destiny. Let’s encourage them to take the wheel and not just sit in the passenger seat while life happens to them.
Our job is not limited to loving our children and doing things for them. It includes nurturing them emotionally as they grow whilst progressively equipping them with the skills they will ultimately require to navigate their own lives. Our parental role is to help them to find the courage to take on challenges, to tune in to their emotions, and to feel liberated enough to do it all.