As a mother of young children, it can be easy to second guess every decision you make – “Are they getting enough sleep?; Should I buy the organic cereal?; Does that cough need to be seen by the doctor?” It’s even easier to judge other parents for the decisions they make – “Helicopter parent much?; Does that mom ever watch her kids?; Wow, fast food again?; I can’t believe she’s giving into that tantrum….” In the end, we all need to do what feels right for our kids and us as parents. And, we hope to get it right in the end, producing healthy, caring, intelligent members of society. Believing in our children, their dreams, encouraging them, and believing in ourselves as parents is the most important part. I heard a saying recently that said, “Behind every young child who believes in him/herself is a parent who believed first”. What I know about myself as a parent is that I believe in my kids – I try my best to build their confidence, tell them when I’m proud of them, believe in their dreams, and encourage them to explore the world.
There are things that are small beliefs and larger beliefs, but in the grand scheme of things, all of them matter. To hinder our kids at a grocery store that has food samples with “no, you won’t like that” instead of “sure, go ahead and try it” and then, if they don’t like it, shrug it off and tell them “thanks for trying something new, you never know if you’ll like it if you don’t try it” can bring about a difference in kids who will try new things (foods, activities, meeting new kids at the playground) versus kids who might be more apprehensive and not willing to try because when small opportunities are presented, they are not afforded the opportunity to “explore”. I’m not saying by any means we should say it’s okay to “believe” in the kids when they want to put on their cape and try flying off the roof, but when given a chance to spread their wings in a safe environment, I feel like they should be allowed to do so within certain parameters.
One thing I always try to remember when talking to my kids is that my voice will become their inner voice someday. This makes me try to focus on choosing nice or positive things to say, as I have found from personal experience that when I am feeling self-critical, the thoughts I hear or say to myself are often in the voice of someone who was frequently critical of things I did when I was a child. I strive to use my belief in my children to help make sure my voice will not be their self-critical inner voice someday.
“They” say it takes a village to raise a child – whoever “they” is; but it’s true. The more community involvement in a child’s life, the more successful I have seen that child. It helps to look at who is in the child’s village; school, daycare or other caregivers, friends/parents of friends/neighbors, teachers/school counselors, family (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-family, etc.), neighbors and anyone else that may be involved either directly or indirectly in the child’s life. I think the village or community can help to enhance what the parents are doing with a child, or even offer the potential to mitigate what challenges might be going on at home for that child. These people, the teachers/caregivers/family have the job of instilling hope in our children for the future, thus giving an importance to the village who is involved in the child’s life.
As a counselor and a parent, I see how the ability to believe in my children, provide them with as much of a village as possible, in addition to all the love and support possible, is going to help them grow to be the strong, independent, loving people that I want them to be. I want my kids to believe in themselves and each other, encourage each other, and enjoy their childhood as much as possible. My twins going into first grade have told me that they have different career choices for different days of the week (ie. Mondays, veterinarian; Tuesdays, police officer; Wednesdays, ballerina; Thursdays, doctor; Fridays, mom) and it changes weekly. I encourage them by telling them I believe they can be anything they want to be and set their minds and work hard to be, but that they are young and don’t have to decide their entire future yet. And, I let them take me along for the ride so I can selfishly enjoy some childhood again.
Sara joined Empathia in 2015 as an EAP Counselor. Sara has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a master’s degree in Counseling, with a concentration in clinical mental health. Sara enjoys reading, attending kids’ activities, and spending time with family.