Families come in all shapes and sizes. There are families where both parents are present or single parent families. There are same sex parents or families where grandparents take on the role of nurturer. Regardless of familial make-up, one thing is true—a sense of security makes a difference.
Things happen! Parents’ separate or divorce. Jobs take one or both parents away from the home. Illness takes a parent too soon. These are things we cannot always help. But what about the things we can help?
No decent parent sets out to hurt a child. We manage tricky situations in the best way that we can and try our best to carry on without losing our sanity. Sometimes in the midst of keeping our own sanity, we unintentionally neglect the sanity of our children. We make decisions not realizing how significant the impact. It’s never something we do on purpose, but in light of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to zoom in on how important it is that we provide a stable, nurturing environment, regardless of the familial composition.
As someone from a very large family, and a mother of three, I’ve come to learn that a child’s needs are quite simplistic. Abraham Maslow explains it best in his Hierarchy of Needs. This theory states that a person’s needs are as follows:
- Physiological (clothes, shelter, food)
- Safety (security)
- Love & Belonging (friendship, family bonding)
- Esteem (self-esteem, self-respect)
- Self-Actualization (the realization of one’s potential)
As simplistic as these needs may seem, the truth of the matter is that children aren’t always on the receiving end of these things. But then again, neither are we as adults.
So what can we do?
Recognize your emotional fallacies. We are not perfect beings. As such, we have to take heed of our own emotional deficiencies; otherwise, how can we then expect to be aware of and manage those things in our children? Taking care of your children starts with first taking care of yourself. Are all of your needs being met? If not, what can you do to change that? Would counseling help?
Own your role. As the parent/nurturer of a child you must own your role. That means prioritizing and making sure you’re doing what’s necessary to guarantee that your child’s needs are met. You are the person your child depends on. You are also the person your child learns from. Realize that your child will emulate you. How you handle things is how your child will likely handle things. Be sure that you are setting a positive example for how to manage stress. If you’re having troubles of your own, don’t be afraid to seek help. Tell your child that every now and again mommies, daddies, grandmas, and grandpas need help too; doing so teaches our child that it’s okay to need and then seek help.
Listen to your children. For a time I raised my kids alone. My husband’s career in the military left our family disjointed. It took a toll on our oldest son, who was old enough to be aware of his father’s absence. He’d say, “I miss Daddy,” or he’d ask, “When is Daddy coming home?” He was clearly expressing to me that he felt the absence of his father, and that was something I could not ignore.
Be proactive in making things right. My son became very dependent on me. At a time when he should have been exploring, he clung to me. It took a while for me to realize I needed to provide stability for my son; I needed to try and fill the empty spaces. I got creative. We played games and told stories that allowed him to really express himself. We developed a nighttime routine of story-telling where we shared our feelings of loneliness, but also our feelings of happiness. This helped him realize that he was not alone. Our routine could never take the place of actually having his father present, but it did give my son comfort. And in a time in our lives where we were often moving from place to place, at least our routine was consistent, and I was a stable presence in his life.
If you as a parent or caregiver could use support in providing stability for your child, please contact The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. We have a variety of counselors available to help families just like yours. Please know that this article is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Victoria Johnson is a Communications major who maintains honors status at the Anne Arundel Community College. She currently writes for The Baltimore Times and has written for the AACC school newspaper, The Campus Current. Victoria’s talent stems beyond her writing and schooling. She is also the co-founder of God’s Jewels, a charitable organization designed to benefit individuals in Africa who seek spiritual enlightenment.