I spent a whole career having the wonderful privilege of being with kids. From baby to late teen, I was invited to share in their journey into adulthood. Typical of my learning pattern, I kind of went at it backwards.
First came my “in the trenches” experience, and then the academic “book learning.” Sometimes this experience was helpful to my student application of what I was reading, but usually I had formed my own ideas and conclusions, which did not match with what my professor believed. I often felt as though I had learned lessons that were not being written about by the academics.
One of the major lessons I believe I learned is the lifelong power of DNA parents. Children gain many of their beliefs from their biological parents, without regard to if that biological parent is available to the child or not. This seems highly unfair to all the people who step into parenting roles without that strand of chromosome material that says “DNA.” Don’t misunderstand me, non-biological parenting is extremely important and valuable, AND there is that BUT in there that says: there are some beliefs that can not be overcome by substitute parents.
Children form their beliefs about themselves, their parents and the relationship between themselves and each parent that is based upon the actions of the parent. For example, if a parent is absent, inconsistent, unable to put the child first at times, breaks promises, is unsafe (angry, risk-taking, dishonest, threatening), the biological child will form beliefs that are extremely difficult to change by anyone else.
The biological parent that provides loving structure with clear expectations and praise will do a lot to decrease the power of the child’s negative beliefs from a parent who is unable to provide positive parenting, but the child will still harbor those negative beliefs. The ability of one biological parent and/or non-biological parents to dispel those negative beliefs of the child is very difficult, and necessary. Time, consistency, patience are all needed to help a child achieve a positive sense of self without the negative intrusion of the formed negative beliefs.
This is a very short explanation of a huge issue. Suffice it to say that we need to respect the power of belief systems and where they arise. Our most Influential Teachers of our belief systems are our biological parents, whether they are a part of our lives or not. Whether we are adopted at birth, live in foster care, have divorced parents or have a parent who abuses substances–we all form beliefs that remain with us throughout our lifetimes. We all need to know that we are loved (with equal parts of patience, gentleness, expectation and rules), held in esteem, are precious to our parents and are cherished. When we don’t experience these qualities, we automatically begin to form those negative beliefs that impact in some way on our lives.
We all can do better as parents, and thankfully our children are quite forgiving. Our children want to believe in us and look for the good. Aren’t we lucky.
I will ask you to patient with yourself and your children, knowing that we all suffer the journey of missed opportunities and precious moments.