Updated: May 1, 2020
Many new parents have the best intentions of improving the job their parents did, seeking a second chance of sorts. Our early liferemains alive in what is often called our ’inner child’ which means we view and respond to experiences from the lens of our childhood, even as adults. Any unresolved needs from early life continue to seek acknowledgment until the needs are met. The biggest obstacle to better parenting then, is not about trying to surpass our parents - but rather consciously returning to our childhood to gain a deeper awareness of our unmet needs from this period that still lay unresolved as adults.
Because our parents did not have access to knowledge like we do about the importance of children’s needs, nor the patterns of unhealthy behaviour that can run in families, many adults have had childhoods that have been emotionally hard to navigate. Childhood memories lay unresolved or hidden until we assume a caring role for children or become parents ourselves. As our children grow, they not only have their own needs,but they also become recipients of our unmet needs as well.
Parenting offers an opportunity to reclaim unexpressed potentials from your childhood, as you simultaneously parent your child. Of course, this might not always feel like an opportunity because when your child is challenged by something or is experiencing a difficult situation – you will unconsciously react based upon your own history. This makes it more difficult to respond to what is happening for the child directly. The good news is, by establishing ways of relating with your children that break the loop of unconscious patterning — the projecting, blaming, expecting and deflecting – you are resolving your own unmet needs as well as those of your child.My research has been pivotal in identifying how the seven foundational needs - unmet, unidentified or unexpressed, will lead to a variety of common issues in childhood and later adulthood.
When parents witness their children struggle, they feel compelled to fix things for them, however if there is something you wish to change for your child – look first to yourself. Learn to pay attention to your body responses. Sense what is going on in your body when you feel into, think about, or are responding to your children.
· If your child experiences anxiety, let yourself feel into your own uncertainty regarding change or feeling safe and secure.
· If your child has difficulty with emotional control, feel into your own emotional range - do you prohibit feelings or avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable?
· If your child is defiant – does life seem like a battle of wills? If so, can you consider ways to use power differently to the previous generation?
· If your child is angry, feel into your heart do you hold anger or feel wounded or can you see beyond the child’s behaviour and offer a loving response?
· If your child is not communicative, can you listen more intently to those things that are unsaid. Do you allow space to express when they are ready?
· If your child feels lost and confused can you allow them to imagine in their own way and in their own time? Or do you need to find a solution?
· If your child is lonely can you let this experience to be a touchstone that opens the child’s self-knowledge or are you quick to try and fill the void for them?
Your willingness to explore with the child, any of your own needs around uncertainty uncomfortable emotions, defiance, anger, confusion and aloneness means that you must hold space and wonder about such feelings for yourself as well. Be curious and explore the wonder of the your child in a way that is different to the way you may have been responded to as a child and perhaps you will come to see that - even with pain of the present and the traumas of the past - your child is helping you to have a second chance at your childhood while you support them to have a childhood that they don’t need to recover from.