Up until a few years ago, I was someone who struggled with keeping my mental health on an even keel. But something changed. Something forced me to seek the help I knew I so desperately needed but was too embarrassed and ashamed to seek.
I had children. When my daughters were born, everything was ok for the first few weeks but by the time they were about 6 months old, I was feeling pretty low. I tried to find help through the GP but this was unfortunately unforthcoming. It took me to a serious low point nearly 18 months later until I finally found help through a counsellor.
For a long time, the reason I stated for getting better was that I wanted to bring up girls who were happy and confident and not affected by any of the struggles that I was. I wanted to know how to do it differently to my childhood but I didn’t quite know why or how. The crazy thing about this was that fixing me was a side product of this rather than part of the main goal.
When you bring a child into this life, you cannot help but have hopes and expectations for the lives that lie ahead of them. Those things that have either been important for you or lacking in your life focus your thoughts, for me the sense that I want my children to do it better than me. There are basic things I want for them that are quite generic – I defy any parent not to want these for their children.
I want my children to have positive relationships and not feel as lonely and isolated as I have.
I want my children to find their passions in life, and not let them get hidden.
I want my children to be happy and know how to balance their emotions.
This raises some interesting questions for me. How do we ensure that the child we raise becomes their own person, not the theoretical ‘me’ I wish I had been? How do I foster these things I want for them whilst at the same time not force my own opinions, thoughts, prejudices on them?
Children (referring to infant age children) are primarily influenced at home and at school. I know that media also has a part to play but at this age it is less significant than those. My personal experiences and those I am receiving as a parent is that the education system is where everything boils down to quantifiable achievement, and sod everything else.
Already I feel that school focuses on the academic above the social and emotional development of the child. My husband and I often discuss about how we are trying to raise well rounded individuals – that we offer them a variety of experiences, to allow them to find their own path in life. So if education is failing them in this, how do we try to show them the way?
It has been proven that the home environment is the most important place in a child’s life and the one that will create the most impact in their later life. There is a delicate balance to be had between bringing them up with key specific moral and social values that will enable them to become a functioning part of society and being prescriptive to them about what we think they should do with their lives.
I have to say in reflecting on this subject, I have no idea or preference where my children’s lives will take them, I am starting to see interests and talents emerge, but how this will go to influence what happens in their lives, I am no wiser than they are.
In fact what has become clearer is that it is the general values that I can try to instil in them, will influence what they make of their specific desires. The work-ethic, the honesty, the perseverance, the open friendliness, the resilience, the ability to reason, the kindness, the ability to enjoy, the planning, the creativity.
But the specifics will come from them. I want to explore their world with them and give them a strong sense of who they are, rights and wrongs, and how to achieve what they truly desire. I want to enjoy that journey of discovery alongside them.
Children role model what they see from their parents. The brilliance of this is that my happiness, social engagement and doing the things that I am passionate about will demonstrate those values that I think are important. I am not the side product, I am the way. And this will filter down into their lives. Enjoy the moment, prioritise what is important, show them the way.