“Whoever has not a good father should procure one.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
If you’ve been well parented yourself, let’s face it, your job is easier. You have a loving template to follow, and you can tweak it to make it even better.
But what if you did not have the best parenting mentors? I can’t begin to tell you how many times in therapy I have felt patients’ heartbreak about what they didn’t get from their parents. They say “My mom was not nurturing,” or “My dad was really self-centered,” or “My parents didn’t see me.” Without good role models at home, they wonder how they will ever be able to be good parents themselves. But they can!
“I had a really bad childhood. My parents made some awful mistakes. We did not feel happy or even safe in my house. But, God love them, I am sure they did not set out to hurt us. Their own stuff just got in the way. I did not want to carry that pain and anger with me for the rest of my life, so I forgave them, and I forgave myself. I sent some love to the little girl who had to put up with all of that—and then I made a decision to mother differently.” —Tales from the couch
This is what I absolutely love about being a therapist: seeing people evolve, change, and grow into the best versions of themselves. Although I intended to be a child psychiatrist, I switched to adult psychiatry when I realized that you cannot fully help children without helping their parents. So many grown-ups feel ill-equipped to be parents. Many patients tell me, “I had an emotionally unavailable mom. I have no idea how to be different for my child.”