Whose life is this? Some tips for celebrating our child’s unique gifts.
We all want great things for our kids, but if we overly-enthusiastically envision our child’s future as a star athlete, physician, attorney, or entertainer it’s a good idea to press the reset button and focus on our child’s real attributes and interests. Every child deserves to be loved and celebrated for who they truly are (and not be seen as a disappointment for not having fulfilled a parent’s dreams). Below are some tips:
- Practice naming as many of your child’s character traits as you can. Many descriptions fit our son when he was little, including smiley, interested in other people, a lover of cats, dogs, and horses, deep sleeper, tentative but curious in new situations, friendly, trusting, musical, energetic, flexible, adaptable, great about trying new food, and easily amused. (We were very lucky: He was an especially easy baby to care for.)
- Observe and name ways that your child’s aptitudes, interests, and temperament both resemble and differ from your own, his or her other parent, and extended family members.
- Discuss with another adult whom you trust how the ways that you and your child seem both similar and different enrich both of your lives.
- Make a point of learning more about some of your child’s interests that are unfamiliar to you.
- Notice and name your child’s likes and dislikes. Help them identify and put these into words also.
- Compliment yourself and your co-parent, if you have one, for supporting your child’s pursuits that lie beyond your own personal interests and talents.
- Write a sentence of two affirming your belief in your child’s right to his or her own life, which may differ significantly from your own when it comes to interests, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender identity, educational path, occupational interest, where geographically they choose to settle in the world, the sort of people they choose to associate with, etc.
- Closely examine anything that you want very badly for your child. Examining such feelings will help you decide whether they may actually be misplaced and more accurately belong to you.
Practicing the above will sharpen your ability to celebrate the unique individual with whom your family has been blessed. You’ll learn, perhaps paradoxically, that the more we parents recognize and value how our child differs from us, the closer we feel to them (and they to us).