Your child is not you

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The author says a great way to strengthen your relationship with your child is to talk to him or her by looking the child in the eye and soulfully connect. Picture: WWW.PEXELS.COM

Bula Fiji! Thank you for taking time out to read Bula Vakasaama, a column dedicated to enlightening readers about practical strategies for optimal mental health and mind wellness.

Today’s topic is a reminder that while you may be the carer and guardian for your child, the truth remains that your child is a completely separate individual and has a completely separate journey that has been destined for her or him.

Simply put, your child is NOT you.

Conscious parenting

Parenting is super challenging. Some years ago, when my daughter was packing for her school camp, I began bombarding her with questions…Have you labelled this? Have you packed this?

Have you packed that? Why do you need headphones, can’t you just look at the stars and not listen to music…It’s camp, not a concert! Do you have to swim in the ocean? What about sharks?

And the bushwalk…what about snakes and spiders?” She literally had to march me out of her room and say to me: “Mum, I will talk to you when you calm down and behave yourself.”

And at that moment I thought, hang on a minute, this is what I used to say to her when she was little. Oh, how the tables have turned, I realised. Reflect on your own relationship with your child.

Do you ever feel that your worries are governed by your own fears and that at times you project those fears onto your child? Your child is not you. Your child has his/her own preordained path, bestowed upon him/her by God.

No matter how much you try to impose your own fears on your child, understand one thing…your child will either absorb your fears and live life with inherited fears or your child will completely reject your fears, plus all the other good advice you may give, because he/she will find it easier to rebel than to conform to your fears. So why do we impose our fears on our children?

Our fears too have been inherited from other people around us. Somewhere cocooned inside us lives a child yearning to blossom into a fearless butterfly. When you are able to address your own fears and parent your inner child to overcome those fears, you will fearlessly fly out of that cocoon, a butterfly who surrenders to the preordained path that God has put you on.

Until you parent your inner child, you will struggle with parenting your child. It’s a daily practice.

Curbing your need to control your child

Below are some steps you can implement if you feel the constant need to control your child;

1. Catch yourself when you are asking your child too many questions. Stop;

2. Reflect on the questions that you are asking your child;

3. If your questions are concerns, what are you concerned about?;

4. If your questions are fear-based, what are you fearful about?;

5. Identify your fears and concerns;

6. Sit with your child and express your fears and concerns using the phrases “I am fearful that…” or “I am concerned that…” Doing so will show your child that these are your fears and concerns and not your child’s;

7. Hug your child and tell him/her that you trust God to keep him/her safe and well; and

8. Thank God for making you aware of your fears and concerns instead of imposing them on your child;

Strategies to strengthen your relationship with your child

1. Talk to your child. Put away your gadgets, look your child in the eye and soulfully connect. A great way to start is to ask an open-ended question which invites an elaborate answer. For example, “What are some things that that happened today that made it a wonderful day for you?

2. Listen to the reply. Listen. Do not formulate a response while your child is speaking. Do not interrupt while your child is speaking. Become fully engaged. Observe your child’s body language. A lot is communicated through body language.

3. Always compliment on good behaviour. If the behaviour has been negative, look for moments when your child is silent and acknowledge the efforts. For example, “I am very pleased with you that you are trying your best to respect our agreement on internet use.”

4. Speak well about those people your child loves. For example, you may not be close to your inlaws but that does not mean your child has to inherit your opinions about them. Respect your child’s love for them.

5. Respect your child’s fears and sentiments. Fear is very real to the person experiencing it. You do not have to encourage it, but you need to show the sensitivity that it is real to your child. For example, “I know it makes you fearful when you think about your exams. I used to be the same. I know how that feels. I understand. I am so pleased that you are trying your very best. That is all that matters. God rewards efforts, not results. Keep doing your best.”

6. Do not bring up past behavioural issues when addressing a new issue. Telling your child, you can no longer trust him/her because he/she lied to you last year is NOT going to resolve anything. Instead, have a respectful discussion about having boundaries.

7. Be a role model of good manners yourself before you demand that from your child. Saying “Please”, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry” to your child does not mean you are weak. In fact, it displays good manners, and your child will learn to treat you and others with the same good manners.

8. NEVER laugh at your child’s mistakes. NEVER belittle or insult. Doing these will hurt your child for life. You only have to access your own unhealed childhood pain to realise that somewhere deep inside you is a memory of an adult who may have laughed at your mistakes or insulted or belittled you.

9. “I am big, you’re small…I’m right, you’re wrong” – NEVER imply or say this. Your child is a human being created by GOD and deserves the same respect and joy as you or any other human being does.

10. Explain yourself clearly when you set boundaries. If you need to prohibit something, get your child to sit and discuss the best strategies that will benefit the entire family. Show that you treat everyone with fairness and that your home is a home with a loving, caring and understanding parent, not a house with a “dictator”.

• PRINCESS R LAKSHMAN is a counsellor, clinical nutritionist, writer, narrative therapist, and certified life-coach. She is passionate about mind wellness and an advocate for kindness and selfcare. She lives in Sydney and will soon open mind wellness hubs in Fiji to provide free mental health counselling and workshops exclusively to Fiji residents. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. She can be reached at info@princesslakshman.

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