• Shawna Campbell

Are You Becoming Your Parents?



Here's an interesting awareness, and a crazy idea. Your parents, wait for it...are people. Shocking, I know, but they are. They aren't just a role and a label, the bank account, or the reason you have curly hair or big feet.


Your parents are people with their own hopes, dreams, challenges, limitations, pain, strengths and experiences, and they had a life before you, and they have a life independent of you.

Maybe you remember the first time you realized your parents have feelings? A job? Fears? Parents of their own? Yep, people. Not invincible, not just disciplinarians, food providing, rule making, embarrassment inducing caregivers... but human beings.


I’m not a parent, but I can see that there’s a lot of expectation and pressure placed on parents today. Outside of just keeping your kids healthy and alive, there’s this increasing evidence that the first five years are crucial, and that parents are creating the very foundation for the child’s future success. This is when children are building the foundation for all they need to know about relationships, health and life habits, and growing self-confidence and resilience. Intense! Oh, and life - work, chores, extended family issues, doesn't stop while you're molding and shaping your child's entire future. Bravo to those of you who are doing your very best to raise healthy, well-adjusted adults.


I’m told, that once you’re raising your own kids, it can be an interesting thing to reflect on your own childhood and how your parents did. Sometimes there’s gratitude and admiration, and sometimes there’s disappointment and sadness.


Part of the journey, for all of us, is learning how to move forward untethered from the pain, disappointment and hurts of the past. We must learn what we can, from a time we cannot change.

It goes without saying that certain grievances: abuse, addictions and abandonment are challenging issues, and may require additional counselling and healing support to resolve. Moving forward may best be done, unhooked from your parents all together.


For those of you who struggle with an aspect, a missing piece or have some blame directed towards Mom and/or Dad, how could seeing your parents as people, support you in being a parent yourself? How could this perspective free you from a story line that you weren’t responsible for writing, and improve your relationships, all around?

4 WAYS TO GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE YOU CALL MOM & DAD:


1. Write your Parents Biography.


Imagine that other people are going to see it. If you were writing your own bio, you’d want to highlight the best of who you are: your accomplishments, things you’ve overcome, areas of expertise and interest, so do the same for your parental figures. What can you highlight, celebrate and take note of? Sometimes by doing their bio, in this way, you can take a broader, and if needed, more compassionate view


2. Don’t blame your parents, or give them too much credit, for the person you are today.


Try to separate your successes and failures from theirs. Know they had, and have influence, but you can decide which lessons, messages and such to keep, and which to let go.


When you hinge all of who you are on their failings, or all of who you are on their teachings, example, or genetic traits, you risk becoming either a victim or a bystander, and as an adult, you are neither.


Knowing this can help you to release expectations, and to take full authority for your life, as an adult, separate from you parents.


3. Be curious and ask them questions now.


It can suddenly be too late and all the history, experiences and nuances of their lives are lost.

This is important, not because of nostalgia, but because it's through understanding their history, that you can forgive and move forward, celebrate and appreciate, and learn and pass on what's useful.

It's this curiosity that helps you to really get to know your parents as a people. It can shine a light on their choices, both good and bad, and offer a larger perspective. You can then apply this learning and view to your own parenting style, and to your choices today.


4. Give them as much access to your kids as you can.


Grandparents have the benefit of hindsight, coupled with a lack of the general parental anxiety that many carry. They will most likely do a better job with your kids than they did with you! Let them, but don't expect them to be the parent or babysitter, they are grandparents, and that comes with a different intention and a different dynamic. It may be difficult for you to see them playing more, listening better or offering support when your kid wants to take a year off from school to travel the world! As grandparents, they're often the kind of parents you wanted, but remember they are people, and that person was paying a mortgage, building a marriage, unhinging from their own past, all while trying not to fail you.


By seeing your parents as people, you remove unrealistic expectations, old needs and wants and come firmly to the present. You can see yourself and your relationship to your parents with adult eyes. By growing this awareness and offering this understanding to them, you can break unhealthy patterns, improve all your relationships, examine your parenting style and stand completely on your own path. You too will be a people, separate from your parents.


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