This and subsequent blog posts explore the role of love and beauty in the relationship between parents and children.
Let’s look first at love here. This topic of love in parenting is so important that I will talk more about beauty in another blog.
The most valuable thing a parent can do with their child is to simply love them.
This is the truth. But what I want to talk about here is the value to good parenting of attending to your own wellbeing. I have talked elsewhere about knowing self. This is a key point. For when you start by loving yourself with honor, with respect, and with an appreciation for who you are as a unique being you have so much more love that you can give the child. This allows you to bring your whole presence into your parenting.
It’s vital that each parent-child relationship be individual. This means the way you interact with one child will not be the same as it is with any other child.
Each youngster is different and unique: this is true even of identical twins. Because of this the parent will need to bring forth a very different persona, skill set, or way of being with each child.
It’s also important to know what your intentions are for the guidance and the upbringing that you wish to give your young one. Here are a few intentions that many have when parenting:
- To create an atmosphere where my children always know they are loved.
- To encourage individuality and self-confidence.
- To provide opportunities to learn and grow and encourage curiosity.
- To create an environment where physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is supported.
Some of these intentions may be yours already. And there are others that you might have as well.
Look at the intentions you have in loving, teaching, and introducing your child to beauty and love. But also know that there is magic and mystery in discovering about love and beauty from, with, and through your child. They bring curiosity and wonder to your relationship and these energies will add delight and richness to both of your lives.
Here are some further questions I encourage you to ask yourself to gain clarity about your intentions with your young one:
- Who is this child now, in this moment?
- Who am I in relation to this child?
- What are my intentions?
- How might I best love this child?
- How might I honor and respect this child (even when they are going through the terrible twos and saying no to everything)? Not every child does that, but many do. In fact, most do.
Later, when they’re a teenager, they are likely to again be saying no to everything, but in a different way. How do you hold your love and your intentions for them even when it seems that they are fighting you all the way?
This is where the strength of your relationship with yourself comes in. Knowing that you love yourself and attend to your own needs and that you also love the child and attend to their needs is the key. This creates an arena for them in which they can say no and nevertheless know that they’re loved. They can spread their wings, try new things, and know you’re there for them.
This comes about through a relationship that is built early between the two of you, where you respect the child as his or her own person even as a babe in arms. You know that you are the parent, yes, but also the guide, the teacher, the example, the presence of safety.
This can seem overwhelming, and often is to parents. This is when it’s useful to pause, if not in the moment, as soon as you can, and re-acquaint yourself with your own honor, respect and love. The intention is that you be as centered as possible when you approach your parenting.
For some people, how they center themselves could be through prayer. Another way might be through meditation. Others might do this by journaling. For yet others it may be talking with someone. It could be walking outdoors in nature. There are a variety of ways to pause and gain back your center.
Now this isn’t always easy when you have small children. You may be only given two minutes and that might be when you’re in the shower, right?
Let me say that it’s vital to learn some brief techniques that will support you in centering yourself. When you can do this, you’re more in touch with your whole and loving self and this leads to a more caring and intimate relationship with your child.
Now there is another thing about parenting, also critical. This is that it is incredibly valuable for you to have time away from your child.
There are parents who say, “I don’t want to be away from my child even for a minute during their first full year.” Interestingly, surprisingly, this is neither healthy for the child nor for the parent because it can lead to a bit or a lot of obsession by the parent and a bit or a lot of dependency by the child. At some point the parent will get exasperated with the child’s neediness and start to push them away causing the child to feel rejected. This is not a dynamic that you, or most parents, would consciously want to have with their child.
It’s a risk if you do not spend some time to be with yourself as the whole and separate adult person that you are and allow that child to be cared for by others. This could be the other parent, a grandparent, a sibling that’s old enough, an aunt, an uncle, or someone else. This also allows your child to experience love in different ways by being with different people.
Now, much of what we’re saying about parenting goes whether you’re the birth, adoptive, or foster parent. If your intention is for your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of a child, then these principles apply regardless of your birth relationship with that child.
As you can certainly imagine, there could be much, much more said about the topic of love and there will be. I will talk about beauty in the relationships between parents and children in a subsequent blog post.