by Courtney Sullivan
Families come in all shapes and sizes with unique challenges and strengths. At the helm of successful families are the parents. Parenthood might be a struggle some days, with hefty responsibility, but it's among the most rewarding jobs you'll ever have.
Every fourth Sunday of July is National Parents' Day! As you get ready to celebrate, take some time out to reflect on your goals as a parent.
We've invited some of our favorite experts and Pregnancy.org members to share their thoughts to get you started:
As a parent, what's one way that you strive to nurture your children?
"I try to nurture my children, who are now teens and young adults, by encouraging them to see their strengths and by reminding them that no one expects them to be perfect. Of course, they're going to receive the odd disappointing mark in school. Of course, they're sometimes going to say or do something they wish they hadn't. What's important is that they learn from these experiences and move on. Beating themselves up for being less-than-perfect doesn't accomplish anything. It only makes life harder and leaves them feeling alone and unworthy of love.” ~Ann Douglas, Pregnancy.org Contributing Expert
"In order to raise happy children, it's essential for parents to nurture themselves. Make sure you don't spend all your energy on your kids. Get some adult time for yourself as well. Not only will you be happier, you'll also be modeling something wonderful to your children." ~Dr. Shoshana Bennet, Clinical Psychologist
"Maybe a little silly, but I feel like if I make sure they get abundant hugs, kisses, and I love you's every single day, then they will carry that love throughout their lives." ~Joee, Pregnancy.org member
Does your family have any special traditions or rituals you've incorporated?
"We try to focus on making the most of every day moments. Some of our family favorites include taking drives through the countryside and sharing our dreams. Meals are truly family affairs -- from cooking to the table and clean up. Our faith is incorporated into our daily lives and the choices we make. Birthdays are true celebrations of life and made a "big deal" by allowing the celebrant to enjoy being King or Queen for the Day! We also try to encourage a lifelong love of learning through a variety of means." ~Missy, Pregnancy.org Staff
"We're a young family so we are still making traditions! But we do eat dinner at the table together every single night. TV goes off, radio goes off, and we (try) to enjoy each other's company." ~Joee, Pregnancy.org member
How do you empower your children to meet whatever challenges life has to offer?
"The way I empower my children to meet life's challenges is to discuss the situation with them, encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, listen to them, and help them problem solve so that it comes from within them. Knowing they have what they need within them and with the right support, they will be able to handle anything." ~Justine Arian, The Mama Coach
"Embracing the idea that tough times are there to learn from can help your children handle anything. The harder the challenge, the more there is to gain from it and the more they'll cherish the smoother times." ~Dr. Shoshana Bennet, Clinical Psychologist
"I try to prepare my children for life's challenges by being as honest as I can about what they can expect to face in the real world. The world isn't going to sugar-coat expectations, so I think the kindest thing I can do for them is to point out those expectations -- both the reasonable ones and the unreasonable ones -- and help them to come up with a personal plan for finding their place in the world. Each of my children has chosen a different path, which makes total sense, given that they each have different aptitudes and interests. What I love, as a parent, is watching them each gain confidence as they begin to follow a path that is right for them. Some of them have had to change course slightly -- or dramatically -- when it became obvious that their initial path wasn't the right one for them. I made sure to let them know that I viewed that as a success, not a failure. I would far rather them alter their course now than commit to a path that will ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. I want them to enjoy their lives as much as I have enjoyed mine." ~Ann Douglas, Pregnancy.org Contributing Expert
"I think being upfront and honest to my children about life is what will serve them best. I let them know that life is not always fair, and that they will not always be the winner. I also make sure that they understand it is up to THEM to be the better person in a situation. This is hard to teach a three-year-old, but I believe my eight-year-old is catching on!” ~Joee, Pregnancy.org member
What are some of your dreams/aspirations for your kids? What about for you as a parent?
"To wish your children happiness in life without your judgment regarding what they do for a living is not easy, but it leads to a feeling of true acceptance. Remember that each of your children is truly an individual, and what's right for one may not be for the other. Teach them to trust their inner wisdom." ~Dr. Shoshana Bennet, Clinical Psychologist
"Many of my dreams for myself as a parent have already come true. At one point, it looked like I might not be able to have children. I struggled with infertility in my early 20s. I experienced a stillbirth in my mid-30s. But I have four healthy children who are a pleasure. I hope to live a long and healthy life so that I can enjoy many more years with them and hopefully be blessed with some grandchildren when the time is right." ~Ann Douglas, Pregnancy.org Contributing Expert
"Honestly? I just want to see them happy. What I define as success may not be the same for them. I want to know they tried their hardest and found their happy place. As a parent? I just want to feel proud of my babies. And barring extreme situations, I don't see that as being a problem." ~Joee, Pregnancy.org member
How will you celebrate Parents' Day with your family?
"I think we may have to bust out the old Monopoly Board and fight over who 'really' deserves Park Place!" ~Joee, Pregnancy.org member
"Weather permitting, we'll be attending a free outdoor concert together under the stars. After a busy weekend, this sounds like a perfect way to unwind together!" ~Missy, Pregnancy.org Staff
Feel free to weigh in with your comments and share your thoughts on your journey as parents! We'd love to hear from you!
About our Contributors:
Ann Douglas is mom to four, an author and contributing expert at Pregnancy.org. Dr. Shoshana Bennett is a clinical psychologist with a passion for mother's self care who's also contributed content on Pregnancy.org. Justine Arian, owner of The Parenting Coach, is a birth empowerment coach, doula and childbirth educator. Joee is mom to three little boys and a volunteer community moderator at Pregnancy.org. Missy is Pregnancy.org Online Community Director and mom of many.
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