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Jan Cloninger and Rosemary Strembicki, LCSW Headshot

Who Will Define Our Children?

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Written by Rosemary Strembicki

There is no shortage of advice on how to parent. There are shelves filled with books in libraries and bookstores, there are websites, blogs, lists, do's and don'ts, professional research and opinions from people who have never had children. When we're in the throes of the latest crisis, we look for comfort online, often only to get more confused. Ask your mother? Sometimes that 's a good idea, depending on your mother.

I just watched a video on how to help girls redefine beauty and recognize what is beautiful about them. It got me thinking about the messages children get from everywhere about who they are.

It starts with us, their parents; with our hopes and dreams for them from the time they're born. That comes layered with our own insecurities, successes and failures and wanting to do better for them. Our mirror becomes our focus for defining our children. What do you see?

I've probably met hundreds of parents in my work as a social worker. Some of them are plodding along from crisis to crisis, not giving much thought to the influence they have in shaping their children. Others are constantly assessing and criticizing their parenting, thinking that any misstep can spell disaster.

And then adolescence strikes and all of society's influences start having an impact on our hard work. We can no longer protect them from the onslaught of advertising and the media. They're bombarded by ideal of the perfect life, the perfect style, the perfect profession and the list goes on and on. Let's face it; those messages are also influencing our reality. But the question is how much are they influencing our parenting?

What do we really want for our children?

Do we want them to be like us, or totally different? Do we care about the lifestyle they choose as long as they find happiness? Do we have the courage to help them figure out who they are without imposing our mirror on them? Can we help them find their passion wherever it lies?

I don't have the answers, and you might want to check online or one of those parenting manuals. But I would hope that instead you try to answer these questions for yourself.

We all have expectations for our children, but it's important that we're realistic in those expectations, as they'll probably change as our children grow and change. They are bound to disappoint us, and themselves, along the way, but that's just part of the lesson of learning who they are. There is not only one answer nor one perfect life; there are many and they all look different, but if we're happy with ours, why does it have to look like someone else's? We have to find the one that's right for us in order to be happy and helping our children define the one that is right for them is one of the hardest tasks of parenting.

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