Today we want to start by sharing a quote with you.
“Once children enter our life, their impact is indelible and we are required to reinvent ourselves in response.” - Dr. Shefali Tsabary
We recently came across this quote by the amazing Dr. Shefali Tsabary and it brought us to a point of reflection about how we learn, grow and change as we travel through our journey as parents. When we look back at where we both started over 4 years ago, it is incredible to reflect on how much we have grown alongside our children. We want to encourage you to do the same.
When you stop to look back at your time as a parent, whether it has only been a few months or if you are years into this, what do you see? Are there parts of yourself that you wouldn’t recognize? Are you amazed by the strength you have developed? Have you uncovered truths about who you want to be? Have you grown in ways you never imagined possible?
We want to share with you three ways our children have made it possible for us to grow alongside them. In our experiences, we have found that our children can help us to dig deep and understand who we really are and where we have come from. We also have learned about the importance of making time to show up for ourselves and why self-care plays a significant role in how we show up for our children. Finally, we have found that our children have made it possible for us to have an understanding of why perfection should not be what we are striving for.
Let’s dive a little deeper into how we can grow also as we raise our children.
1. Our children teach us to reflect on our own experiences so that we can heal
Have you ever reacted in a moment with your child that instantly left you feeling guilty or disappointed in yourself? Maybe you lost your cool or you responded in a way you wish you hadn’t and after the moment, you wish you would have handled it differently? Have you stopped to consider why you acted in the way you did?
Certain moments with our children can feel triggering for us. If we stop to investigate WHY we feel triggered we can learn about beliefs that we hold and we are then provided with the opportunity to dissect how and if those beliefs are really serving us as parents.
Maybe you struggle to make space for your child’s emotions because growing up you were made to believe that you were “too sensitive”? Perhaps you hold that narrative that your presence with your parents was only welcomed when you were happy.
Anything that is triggering for us as parents, from emotions to specific behaviours, is providing us with an opportunity to reflect on how we feel about ourselves. Beyond that, it provides us with an opportunity to re-frame those beliefs, which can also be seen as an opportunity to heal. Instead of believing that we were “too sensitive” we can now stop to appreciate our ability to empathize and care for others. Instead of rushing to silence or distract from emotion, we can practice protecting our own children's right to experience a full spectrum of emotions and healthy self-expression.
Children provide us with the opportunity to examine our beliefs and from there determine if those beliefs are how we really want to live our life and build our relationship with our children.
2. Our children teach us about the importance of loving ourselves and making time to show up for ourselves
Parenting is hard enough, let alone when we have not been taking care of ourselves. Being patient with your child as you wait for them to complete a task is difficult when you haven’t slept enough. Making space for all of your toddler’s emotions can be especially draining if you have not made time for yourself at all. If you haven’t been meeting your own needs, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet the needs of your child.
Our children co-regulate with us so if we aren’t okay, it makes it hard for them to feel okay. If we are feeling anxious or frustrated our children will sense that. Essentially, making changes, but also parenting in general, is a lot more challenging when we are not taking care of ourselves.
If we aren’t showing up for ourselves, we struggle to show up for our children the way we want to. I know we’ve all heard that we can’t pour from an empty cup, but we don’t understand the truth behind that statement until you are so depleted that you don’t even recognize the parent you’ve become in the way you show up for your child.
The next time you find yourself raising your voice for example, take a moment to pause and consider, have you. been taking time to meet your own needs lately?
We know that as a parent showing up for ourselves is easier said than done. As L.R. Knost says, “self-care doesn't mean me first, it means me too”. We encourage you to value your needs the same way you value your child’s. We encourage you to take some time to be intentional about self-care, even if your children are there with you (we have some ideas for you here). It is also okay to ask for help so that you can make the time to be intentional about taking care of yourself.
3. Our children teach us about the beauty of imperfection and giving ourselves grace as we learn from our mistakes
Isn’t it beautiful how gracious our children can be? When we lose our cool or react in a way we wish we hadn’t, our children will still be there, giving us the opportunity to repair. Our children make it possible for us to be imperfect, without our mistakes needing to be seen simply as a failure. When we take the time to explain to our children why we responded the way we did and apologize, we are gifted with the opportunity to grow and do better next time.
Our children do not care if we are perfect, they just need us to intentionally show up for them again and again, doing better each time as we learn. The beautiful thing about it though, is that we can learn from our moments of imperfection. We can show our children that we were wrong, that we are human, that we made a mistake, but also that we will be there for them even when we are still navigating how to do so.
By owning up to our mistakes we can take the time to reflect, but also learn more about how we do want to interact with our children so that we can grow. If we find ourselves using threats or punishment to force behaviour for example, we might pause after the moment and take the time to apologize to our children, then reflect on how we can do better, and move forward knowing that we have done everything we can to continually improve.
Our children love us even when we stumble and they make it possible for us to grow and learn, giving us a chance to know better so that we can do better.
So really, isn’t it such a wonderful blessing, that if we open our hearts and our minds, our children can be the ones to help us grow and flourish, when all the while the intention is that we are helping them to grow?