Parenting is hard. We hear that a lot. We know. Many of us strive to be the best parents we can possibly be, knowing that we don’t have all of the answers and we are likely to make some mistakes. This is beautiful and admirable and undoubtedly beneficial to our kids.
Yet there is more to parenting than raising children.
Say what? Isn’t parenting, by definition, the act of raising kids? Well sure. But it’s also a relationship; one that spans lifetimes and overlaps every other aspect of our lives. Parenting is a powerful connection that extends far beyond molding responsible, thoughtful humans. Parenting is a process. Parenting is an art. Parenting is a sacred journey.
I know so many parents who feel overwhelmed, confused, scared, or worried. I’ve supported families through all sorts of transitions, challenges, and stressful life events. I’ve been trained to offer emotional support, and to teach practical parenting skills and behavior management. But what I’ve come to understand, both through my professional work and my personal life, is that parents often fail to understand the incredible potential the challenges of raising kids presents to them personally and spiritually.
Every relationship serves to teach us about ourselves. Interacting with other people is like holding up a mirror, as it reflects all of our own shit back to us. Relationships ask us to acknowledge and confront our deepest issues. They present us with the opportunity to work through our defensive, destructive, or limiting patterns. They teach us how to communicate, how to be respectful, and how to have empathy. Relationships encourage us toward profound growth and transformation so we can be the best possible versions of ourselves.
Often, the mirror reflection in the parent-child relationship is pretty darn ugly. Children are the impressionable, innocent, powerless ones in the dynamic. They learn by example and they develop their sense of self according to how they’re treated. As the adults and as the caregivers, it is unfair for us to blame them when conflict arises. We are responsible for how they learn to communicate, to behave, and to live. When we don’t like what they present, it is a call for us to look in the mirror to find where that shit came from. It is also a call to elevate ourselves to a higher level of being, which can be SO HARD. Parenting challenges us to calm our emotions, to see from multiple perspectives, and to nurture and support another even if we do not agree with or understand them. It asks us to nurture and support ourselves, even if we despise what we see in our own behavior. Parenting is the ultimate invitation to develop profound compassion. Parenting is an enormous emotional undertaking that can be painful as hell.
Through the process of self reflection and personal development we are able to connect with the core of our spirit and a higher power. This may be understood or conceptualized differently for different people, in accordance with their personal spiritual or religious beliefs. Personally, I conceive of my intuition as an expression of spiritual guidance. Source lives in me and gives me great wisdom. I only have to quiet myself and listen to what it tells me. The messages come through most intensely in times of hardship or conflict, as well as through feelings of deep love. There is no love I feel more strongly than the love I have for my kids. There is no relationship more meaningful or more profound. As a result, parenting serves as a direct and powerful link to the divine.
I aim to approach parenting from a sacred perspective. Which means that I strive to use the challenges parenting presents to develop into a stronger and better person. As a parenting strategist and coach, I encourage my clients to do the same. This requires conscious effort and tremendous dedication. Here are some things to consider if you choose to adopt a sacred parenting approach (which, by the way, can be done no matter how young or old your kids are):
- Confront your own childhood wounds. I won’t say “heal” your childhood wounds because, in all honesty, I don’t think that’s always possible. But parenting will trigger your deepest pain. When this happens, you’re being asked to confront it. Don’t stuff it away or ignore the call. Hopefully you can learn to accept your past experiences. Ideally, you will move beyond them. But at the very least, make yourself aware of them and how they may be interfering in your relationship with your kids.
- Self reflect. Parents often blame their kids for misbehavior without looking in the mirror. If you find yourself feeling resentful, making accusations, criticizing, or belittling your kids–even if you don’t express such thoughts to them directly–it is time to self reflect. This is not to say you must blame yourself (definitely not!), but ask yourself what the lesson is for YOU in the situation.
- Make an effort to consciously connect. This means to be present when you’re with your kids. Put your phone down. Get away from the screens and engage in fun, meaningful activities. Have conversations. Ask them about their lives. Ask their opinions about the world around them. Actually LISTEN to what they have to say. The housework can wait, the errands can wait, work can wait. The years are long, but the days are short… make time NOW to enjoy quality time.
- Engage in deliberate growth and transformation. Focus on YOUR personal and spiritual development. Recognize that parenting, especially when it’s hard, presents you with an incredible opportunity to be a better person. Do the work necessary to facilitate that for yourself. It is NOT easy, but it is so worth it, and will ultimately help you feel happier and more fulfilled as an individual, which will help you feel more effective and appreciated as a parent.
- Connect to a higher power. Take time to quiet your mind. Sit with stillness. Listen to your intuition. Pray if that’s your thing. Recognize and celebrate the life force within you and try to see how it connects to forces beyond your self. If done regularly, this will give you greater calm and patience. It will help you feel more confident and enable you to be more present and focused with your kids. It will guide you to solutions to some of the hardest problems. Remember, the times when you feel the most stressed, distracted, or incapable of it is when you need it the most!
- Get support if needed. If any of this seems daunting or if you are the sort of person who appreciates additional support and accountability, then connect with community or invest in a coach or counselor ( like ME! ). You don’t ever have to go it alone.
Parenting is a delicate dance. Like any art, it isn’t something you just know how to do. It requires dedication and hard work. It encourages you to learn from your mistakes so you can improve your form. It invites the divine to flow through you. Through conscious effort and deliberate creation, all of the messy, ugly, and painful moments will be transformed into unspeakable beauty…
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.