Giving The Love That Heals

Happy Birth Day!

Our daughter turned 12 this week, and I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned about parenting since the day she came into the world…

“Yes! Make Her Cry!”

Hayley’s birth was very quiet and peaceful. I went inward to focus on the job at hand, and gave everything I had…and then more. Thankful and with awe, like most mothers, I found there was something greater in me than I ever knew existed that allowed me to push past wordless, unspeakable pain. And then she was here… looking clear through me with the oldest newest eyes I had ever seen… not making a sound.

Then the nurse took her away. No longer in my range of vision, and unable to hear her, I grew increasingly concerned.

Aren’t Babies Supposed to Cry?!

I thought babies were supposed to scream at the top of their lungs when they were first born, (right?)  so I told the nurse “She isn’t crying! Make her cry!” She laughed and asked if I was sure I wanted her to do that, because our baby was fine… and completely discounting her years of caring for newborn infants in a hospital setting, I insisted, “Yes!  Make her cry!!!!” That may have been the first time that Mother did not know best, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Some Book Learnin’ Helps

Parenting has been everything I thought it would and could be… and so much more. I found it wasn’t easy, sometimes wasn’t much fun, and our child didn’t come with an owner’s manual.  (Of course, it’s possible we left it behind at the hospital.) So I was happy to discover something that really helps a parent to do “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

Giving the Love That Heals

Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen Hunt’s book on parenting children and teens, Giving the Love That Heals : A Guide for Parents, is one of the most helpful I have ever read for doing the job right. It goes far beyond how to toilet train, deal with temper tantrums or set curfews. Besides helping parents learn how to not “hand-down” wounding that they may have received as a child as they raise their own, from this book you can learn how to give your children the safety, support, and structure that they need to grow up healthy and whole.

 Your Kids Need Your Help

Drs. Hendrix and Hunt get that even though children are not just “little adults,” they are most certainly their own persons…deserving of your time, your energy, your patience and your respect. Parenting techniques that start from this assumption are often more effective than those which assume that children can simply be taught to do things with reinforcement or punishment alone, without respect for their feelings or that they need help to learn how to manage them.

 It’s Going to Be Okay

As often as possible in working with parents, we try to teach their recommendations to use empathy, validation, and “intentional dialogue.” Using some simple, but effective ways of communicating with your kids, you can show them that it’s okay for them to FEEL anything they are feeling…no matter how sad, mad or scared they are. You validate that which exists, then you help them to manage and deal with both their feelings AND the circumstances which brought them about.

You can teach them that they are okay, their feelings are okay, and it’s all going to be okay… because you can help them learn ways to cope.

The Instillation of Hope

By teaching this, your child is able to learn how to manage even very strong and overwhelming feelings, know that they aren’t bad for feeling them, and know that there is a solution to every problem… it is no less than the instillation within the child of the knowledge that there is always hope. That alone can carry your child through some of life’s most difficult challenges, so they can keep growing and learning and becoming.

These are the skills that they can take with them into that big, scary world out there… even if they don’t come into it crying. 🙂

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist

For more information about Dr. Harville Hendrix, click HERE.

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