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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: What I Would Do Differently as a Parent

There is no more important role in life than that of the parent and it seems that no one knows exactly what to do when faced with the miracle of life, even if he has the best intentions. Raising children is one of the most difficult things we are called to do in our lives and it is usually not the only thing we have to do when we are young and creative. That’s why no parent can avoid mistakes in raising their children.

The same thing happened to me. Now that I’m at another point in my life cycle, and having more experience, maybe my choices in some things concerning the raising of my children would be different.

I would try to hug them more, cuddle them, cover their every need without feeling guilty about spoiling them, without the fear that they will not become self-sufficient and independent. In the first years of their lives, children are completely dependent on us and the parents who offer them all the tenderness and attention they have not only do not spoil them but help them cultivate a sense of self-worth. It teaches their children that they deserve to be loved.

I would let them explore the world around them much more, to dip their hands in the mud, to walk barefoot, to go out in the cold, without constantly being afraid that something would happen, that they would catch a cold, get sick or hurt. I would take part in their adventures with great enthusiasm, and I would rather pass on the message to them that the world around them is not a huge trap full of dangers, but a world full of opportunities and possibilities. And later, when they were older, I would tell them more often “have fun” every time they went out and not “be careful.” Parents who face the world with less fear and suspicion raise children who become more independent, happier, and less anxious.

I would take all these little things that might have bothered them more seriously, like breaking their favorite toy or not being able to watch their favorite show. I would not say to them “why are you sad about something so insignificant;” rather, I would hug them and show them how I understand their sadness for anything that might have been important to their small world and insignificant to my big one. Parents who share their children’s grief help them to respect their own feelings, to cultivate their empathy, to show them in practice how important it is to understand the pain of others and to offer comfort.

I would avoid giving my children positive and negative labels, such as “you are careless and messy” or “you are a very smart and excellent student” and would choose to characterize actions and behaviors and then carefully justify my descriptions. I would prevent others from categorizing my children. Parents who avoid such descriptions leave it up to their children to choose the labels they want for themselves, without having to prove what they are not, or confirm what others want them to be.

I would talk to my children more honestly about myself. I would let them see how tired, how upset, how confused I might have felt. I would not feel remorse every time I could not appear strong, capable, the one who has all the answers. Parents experience a variety of emotions and when they allow them to be expressed, they help their children grow up without having to be perfect in everything. They help them accept their weaknesses, mistakes, and imperfections and love themselves as they are.

Finally, I would spend much more creative time with them. I would let them cook with me even though it would take a lot more time; I would let them fix something that was broken; I would teach them how to handle tools; I would give them the opportunity to have as many experiences of creativity and inspiration.

Parents who trust their children to participate in the activities of daily life help them to become independent, to cultivate teamwork, and to cope more effectively with the demands of real life.

Parents’ mistakes are inevitable. Most of the time, however, behind them there is immense love, good intentions, and the longing for their child to become joyful and happy. That is why in these cases it would be good to treat them with understanding and forgiveness. After all, let our children remember that they too will make similar mistakes…

Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.

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