As the last days of this year tick off of the calendar, many people are drawn to introspection and reflection. For parents, these last days of the year offer space to sit down and intentionally consider how you are working to become the parent you want to be for your children.
If you have a few moments of downtime this week, I encourage you to not only think through the answers to these questions, but also take time to write down your answers. If you don’t have time for a written response, consider speaking your answers out loud to increase the impact of your reflections.
1. How do you think your children have experienced you as a parent this past year?
If your children are old enough to respond (and if you are feeling brave!), you might ask them this question. For those with younger children, take a moment to get behind their eyes and think about how they see you and experience you on a day-to-day basis.
2. How do you want your children to experience you as a parent in this new year?
I desire for my children to know that people are more important than projects. For me, that means I need to be more attentive to how I manage my time. I want for my children to experience me as a mother who is genuinely engaged with them throughout each day. In the coming year, I want to be more affectionate, less frazzled, more gracious, and less preoccupied.
Hit the highlights
3. What aspects of parenting brought you the most joy this past year?
It is so easy at the end of the year to think back on all the ways we believe we missed the mark, rather than celebrating our personal best. Take time to relive and relish your Parenting Hall of Fame moments from this past year.
4. What are you looking forward to with great anticipation in this new year?
As our toddler grows through the twos and into the threes, I know we have exciting times ahead. I can only imagine how her vivacious, life-loving personality will develop as she matures in the next year. We are taking a special trip as a family in the summer, and I know we will come home with many memories and stories.
Strengths and challenges
Photo by playingwithbrushes
5. As you survey your parenting toolbox, which tools do find to be working well for your family, and which tools could use some sharpening?
I know exactly which tools I need to seek out and add to my own parenting toolbox. I want to learn more about how to respond rather than react when situations become tense. I know that the moments I choose a calm response rather than an agitated reaction are the moments when the outcome is more peaceful for everyone.
Of the tools that are working the best for me as a parent, I have to say the most helpful is connecting with parenting communities (online and face-to-face) to share insight, advice, feedback, and perspective. The older my children are, the more I realize that I need the support and friendship of others to encourage me in the day-to-day work of parenting. I have been blessed by amazing communities of support in the past year.
6. How have you pursued your children in the past year?
Sometimes we take for granted that our children want to be known by us. Children are not developmentally able to grasp many abstract concepts such as love, interest, and devotion. Parents must find concrete ways to deliberately and demonstratively put actions to our words of love.
7. What actions will you take to be more engaged with your child in this new year?
With babies and younger children, this can be something as simple as spending a little extra time reading favorite books or splashing around in the bathtub with them. For older children, a genuine interest in what interests them might show them you want to really get to know the person they are becoming.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt
8. Is there any aspect of your relationship with your child that has been strained by unforgiveness or regret?
The dawn of a new year is an ideal time to start fresh and new. Every relationship will have pain, misunderstanding, and frustration at some point. Now is the time to examine the reality of your relationship with your children – not to bring more pain to the surface, but rather to actively seek out healing.
9. Is there an unresolved issue for which you need to offer your child forgiveness, or do you need to ask for forgiveness from your child?
I had to stop and ask for the forgiveness of my daughters today in the parking lot of our local discount store after a particularly unhappy shopping trip. I had been terse, short, and unkind to each of them as we zoomed through the store. There was an obvious disconnection between the three of us, and it is remarkable how quickly we can reconnect once forgiveness has been asked for and given.
10. What actions will you take to nurture a healthy connection with your children in this new year?
A great way to promote engaged parenting is to build in checkpoints through the day or through the week. Perhaps each night at bedtime could become a special time of conversation in which you talk through the joys and the pains of the day. Maybe every Sunday night in your home allows time for a family meeting in which each member of the family has time to share thoughts, problems, hurts, and encouragement.
Engaged parenting doesn’t happen by accident. It requires action, reflection, and assessment. As we embark on the journey that is 2010, there will be bountiful opportunities to grow more into the parent you want to be.
Do you have year-end rituals or practices that pertain to parenting to share? What questions or comments would you add to this starting point?