Parenting Is a Gift to Be Valued and Nurtured

One of the things I feel most passionate about is how we as parents have the ability to grow and become the most caring, empathic and loving role models for our children. They deserve nothing less from us. There is nothing that breaks my heart more than to meet a child who’s genuine self-worth and potential have not been acknowledged. Consequently, I see how the child has begun building up negative and often unhealthy strategies to help him or her deal with the pain they are feeling. Lack of parental presence and understanding can leave them feeling alone and not deserving of what they most long for: to be understood by their parents.

I had a young boy in my practice a while ago, whose body trembled while he cried heavy and desperate tears from a place deep down in his heart; a hidden place that hadn’t been embraced for far too long. He constantly looked at me with his big eyes desperately begging me to make his pain stop, while he tried to put into words how he felt. He had started to pull his own nails out to let the pain fill more than the pain inside him and that is when his parents reached out to me.

A Hectic Lifestyle

We live in a society that poses the expectation that we must excel in all areas of life. We must live and eat healthy, maintain a good physique, live in a nice home, parent children who thrive and go to a lot of activities—and of course we must have an exciting social life along with a well paid job. The problem with all these aspects of life is that it drains and kills everything that is really important in terms of family life.

When we strive for a perfect life, everyone in the family is using energy on things that are superficial and inauthentic. These expectations that are set for us are not realistic. Perfectionism does not exist, but presence and time together matters more than anything else, even if it cannot be measured in the same way as a test in school.

As parents, we must always remember that the way we live our lives is not just about ourselves, but more about how our children’s lives will be shaped by our choices and behavior. Children do as we do and not as we say. So, even though we might think that we are only doing everything in accordance to our very best intentions, our children will still follow our example and how we handle the up’s and down’s of life.

Therefore, it is so important that we live our lives in accordance with our values, who we are and who we want to be. Then, we can take an active position on who we are as parents and figure out the best ways to build up a strong foundation for our family.

Do we begin the family journey of our lives with a lot of unresolved skeletons from our own lives, or have we made an effort to reconcile and find peace with what has hurt us in the past? Those sentences matter! So many of us pass on unfair expectations and unfulfilled dreams to our children, and we are unable to see their true personalities and talents.

The little boy I told you about was a victim of misconduct and the absence of willingness to look inwardly. His parents simply didn’t see him, even though they tried to do their best, as we all do. They were subconsciously more concerned about how they as a family looked to others and how they wanted to do different than their own parents did. They did their best and loved him dearly, of course, but they used up all of their energy avoiding their own lack of self-esteem and unprocessed wounds. Confronting your own insecurities is crucial to the happiness of yourself as well as your children. They cannot be suppressed—they will always find a way to come up to the surface.

How to Heal

Until we become more comfortable with the emptiness we carry inside of us, we use too much of our constructive energy on trying to repress these feelings. The pain of the emptiness can cause us to reach for anything to make it go away, like working too much, alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, a hectic scheduled lifestyle, many activities etc.

So, when we forget to take small breaks in our lives, and take a breath, we miss the opportunity to connect with ourselves and to be in the present. When we are living in the present, we can make the right choices for ourselves and our children. When we live our life in the fast-paced lane of not feeling, we fail to stop and evaluate our lives. Therefore, it may be a good idea to ask yourself reflective questions once in a while about the way you choose to live your (family) life:

What is important to me to feel good and loved? Are those basic needs met every day? Do I make sure that my children’s basic needs are met every day? Do I feel that I can be the mother or father that I want to be? Can I be sure my children feel loved, seen and acknowledged?
How can I slow down when there are so many expectations put on me? Where can I start? Can I make some new routines that will foster more closeness and presence in my family? Can I create a list where all our values as a family are listed?
Is it possible to skip something from the busy schedule, and exchange it with free play and time to do nothing? Is it really necessary to look like there is nothing to put a finger on, instead of showing up real and human? How can I find peace with my skeletons and move on? How can I better look for the potentiality of my children instead of putting them in boxes where they can’t breath?
How do I start respecting myself (because I can’t respect my children before I respect the full and whole real me)? The first baby step I will take is _______.

Intentional Parenting

What we give attention grows. Everything is about our choices and where our starting point is founded; which emotions we experience and what thoughts we have—so instead of focusing on everything you do not have, or what you do not receive or miss, rather focus on everything you have. Right now! We really have a free choice, even if we do not always believe it. Many of us live most of our adult lives on automatic pilot, the opposite of being present and fully conscious. Our children deserve better, and the journey to become an even better parent has to start with ourselves; always. We are the ones that carry the responsibility for our children, and even though we work a lot and have negative and destructive thoughts now and again, we should always make sure to free our children of any kind of blame or guilt, and instead connect with them every day. They are beautiful and we must always make an effort into never lose sight of why we became a parent in the first place. Love is all that matters and feeling connected to others gives meaning and hope to our lives. Let’s help each other with compassion and kindness, when we see someone struggle with our light. Let’s remember, that we are all wounded and perfected souls that just need to know that it is totally and perfectly okay to be real.

Originally featured on Psychology Today


Iben Sandahl

Iben Sandahl comes from Denmark and is an internationally-renowned public speaker, best-selling author, psychotherapist and educator. She has more than 20 years of experienced insight into child psychology and education, which in a most natural way anchor the Danish way of practicing parenthood. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Salon, El Païs, Reader’s Digest, Greater Good Science, Elle and many more - and her main mission is to help parents raise happy and confident children. She writes for Psychology Today ( ) and leads an European Erasmus financed project on how to implement empathy in schools and institutions all over Europe.

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