Children are people, and they should have to reach to learn about things, to understand things, just as adults have to reach if they want to grow in mental stature….” -Walt Disney

I was raised by a single mom back in the 60’s and 70’s when nannies and daycare were not common. We were living away from family. Observing how my other friends were parented, and remembering my feelings at the time, I felt no one was watching out for me. When I became a parent, I decided I was going to give my children the upbringing I never received. They were going to be loved, supported and protected.

My children are now grown, though my son with autism will always be like a child. Looking back at how I parented my kids, I wanted to share with you one thing I would do differently. I would focus more on preparation than protection.

What better time is there for our children to learn to maneuver through the challenges of life than when they are safely under our care? If I “run interference” for them for 18 years and then they go out into the world, what have I taught them? If I minimize their “rough patches” when they’re young, how will they learn to deal with troublesome situations or people once they’re on their own? The challenges they encounter from the time they’re small, learning to share toys or, as they grow, how to handle the influence of alcohol and drugs, give rise to moments for us to LISTEN and gently guide them. Listening and guiding them with respect and non-judgment, blows open the channels of communication with our kids.

The “funny” thing about this is, that focusing on preparation is actually a protective choice! What better way to protect our children for a lifetime than to allow them to begin to make their own decisions… try their abilities out while still having our support… in essence, equipping and preparing them to increasingly handle the ups and downs of their own life. BTW, this also increases their self esteem.

Of course their preparation or opportunities to learn are far beyond “teachable moments”. The example we set by our own behavior or choices is their most “powerful teacher”, much more powerful than what we say.

So perhaps, the next time your child encounters a difficult situation, instead of jumping in to fix it like I did, why not hear them out and offer guidance as they try to come up with the best solution for themselves. Giving them a safe place to express themselves and get their feelings out can make their next step clearer. Whether we’re a kid or an adult, more clarity always feels better.

With love, Jackie

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