As I spent time around the table and on the floor playing with my grandchildren this holiday season, I found myself reflecting on grandparenting. Interacting and observing each grandchild, I was aware of how important this time of their lives is and how I can either be part of their flourishing or contribute to a deficit of something they need, but didn’t receive.
I also caught myself observing my adult children and felt proud of the fine parents and human beings they have become. Yet, as I look at them, I am reminded that my parenting has left some regretful gaps and omissions. Each of them must now enter into their own journeys of repairing what they may not have received from me, even as they seek to offer to their children much needed gifts and experiences so that they flourish into adulthood.
As I expand my gaze beyond my family, I’m cognizant of this present moment for moms and dads and their children. I hear from so many that it’s been a mixture of unexpected gifts, of increased time and presence, as well chaotic and exhausting. However, it’s in the mix of what life gives us, not some future ideal state, that each of us must live out our calling to be intentional, emotionally attuned, supportive parents and grandparents.
Becoming an Intentional Parent
Becoming an intentional parent involves clarifying your hopes and dreams for your child. It requires you to exercise your power of reflection, whereby you move your implicit hopes out from the shadowy basement of your subconscious into the light of day, so that your explicit hopes can more thoughtfully guide you.
Therapist and consultant, Laura Duncan, in her 10 Gifts Workshop identifies ten gifts all children are meant to receive from their parents. She goes on to observe that if children do not receive them, they then can move out from their developmental years with unmet needs. This creates certain vulnerabilities as an adult, and often leads to getting one’s needs met in unhelpful ways. Unmet needs then become a seemingly unmitigated catalyst for addiction, anxiety, and depression.
Laura’s list includes:
The need to be - heard
The need to be - seen
The need to be - accepted
The need to be - played with
The need to be - taught
The need to be - protected
The need to be - provided for
The need to be - valued
The need to be - made to feel enough
The need to be - shown affection
Gifts Need to be Felt
One additional point she makes is that it is what your child FEELS that indicates whether these gifts have been received or not. In other words, you as a parent could be making choices that from your perspective intend to communicate value (or acceptance or affection, etc.), but if it is not felt by your child, the gift will not fulfill their crucial and unique need.
So with this as food for thought, the following set of gentle, yet expansive prompts are designed to help clarify and remind you of what really matters to you as you enter this coming year with your amazing little human. ( Note: If you have more than one child, take time to reflect on these prompts for each one individually as they are each unique both in their preferred love language and their stage of human growth and development.)
A. As I honestly consider the list of 10 gifts above, which one or ones do I suspect are NOT being received at an emotional or feelings level from me by my child?
B. What do I want my child...
To Learn (from Me or Others)
To Experience from Me
To Remember about this Year
C. Looking back over what I’ve written…?
Where am I being most successful in pursuing my hopes?
Where might I need increased focus or effort?
What 2-3 changes if made would make the biggest difference?
For what might I need to seek out help? Whom might I turn to for this help?