Thanks for Stopping By

Welcome to my blog, Pastoral Parenting. I hope to share with you some things I have learned as a parent and from my studies in pastoral care and developmental psychology.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world for which we receive no formal training. I like to say we are all raised by unskilled labor! We are taught to attach closely to our newborns, but once we have--and have fallen deeply in love--no one ever tells us that it is just as important to learn how to detach and let them go.

I also write a weekly reflection on Scripture called "Come and See" and I often incorporate parenting topics into these reflections. They are written from my vantage point as a Christian, but I try to make my writing universally applicable, the way I believe Christ wants me to. This blog will rely on our common Spirit--no preaching, just sharing the love.

By way of disclaimer, I am not a licensed therapist. I have a Master of Arts degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from Loyola University in Maryland and wrote my thesis on Pastoral Parenting. In a phrase, I use my head, but speak from my heart. I also believe that a healthy sense of humor goes a long way to help keep us sane, so I hope to share some of that as well. If you or your child is really struggling, I strongly encourage you to seek the help of a family therapist.

Blessings on you and your children!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Day

Some 16 years ago, I retired from my career to raise our kids. My son was 7 and my daughter was 2 and we moved a bit farther north in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US.  I had had a pretty demanding job, and when the kids were sick or school was canceled due to bad weather, it was always a scramble to figure out how my husband and I would divide up the day. A lot of you know exactly what I am talking about, and many of you don’t have the luxury of someone with whom to share the responsibility.

So I vividly remember the first “snow day” in our new house after I had quit work.  The announcement that school was canceled came over the radio, and I was whisked back to my own childhood.  I spent a few minutes savoring the joy of those special days, with sledding and hot chocolate. I stayed in bed for a while until my sleepy-eyed son and his little sister came in to find out why he was still at home.  They both jumped into bed with me, overjoyed to be staying in their pajamas for a while. Then, I bundled them up to go out and play while I fixed the hot chocolate, like my own mother did for me.

These sorts of moments of shared joy are precious. Maybe your child plays a sport or an instrument that you played, and you watch as they learn and grow in their abilities.  It’s wonderful to sit back and see them develop. And it’s important that we let them experience it for themselves. Sometimes, in parenting, due to unfulfilled dreams or a desire to see our children succeed, we force our own images or goals onto our kids. We take away the sheer joy of learning by expecting them to take the same route we took or to achieve more than we were able to achieve. Nothing deflates the balloon of enjoyment faster, particularly for creative pastimes or athletics, than when parents muddy the endeavor with specific approaches and demanding expectations.

This is especially problematic when children are really young.  Ideally, all of their learning, both in and out of school should be as free from stress as possible. I advise parents to balance the need to teach their children time management and good study skills with the freedom to explore these processes on their own.  Children need and crave structure, but we don’t have to force it in every dimension of their lives. Routines are good for kids and help  families run smoothly, but allowing toddlers and young children the opportunity to plot their own course, to fail, and to try again and again is key to fostering resiliency, self-efficacy (i.e.,“ I am capable”) , and independence—traits that will serve them well over their lifetimes.   

Our daughter is finishing up her last year in high school now. Next fall, she will be off to college, and I hope we have given her the freedom to succeed on her own terms.  But I have to admit ... I’m praying for just one more snow day so she can snuggle up to me one last time. So we can share that childhood joy  just once more before she heads off into this wide and wild world.

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