In the comfort of the therapist’s office parents will sometimes feel safe enough to reveal their inner most unspoken thoughts about their children. Parents often experience a tremendous sense of shame and guilt associated with their negative thoughts. The risk of allowing these thoughts to emerge within themselves and be spoken to another person is enormous for the average parent and yet essential for a healthy and positive parent-child connection. Here are 6 taboo thoughts that parents have:
1. This is not the child I had hoped for and expected. Well intended parents can develop unrealistic expectations of a child long before the child’s birth. These parents have spent years envisioning a certain kind of child and then when a real child arrives, it’s difficult for these parents to adjust to the reality. These expectations range from having a healthy child to more defined desires such as expecting a child to appear a certain way, have a certain intelligence, and have specific talents in predefined interest areas, for example, “I know my son will be an athlete”. When children turn out differently from what their parents expect, parents struggle to accept their feelings of disappointment. They deny their own feelings because of the shame their feelings evoke. In reality, accepting their feelings is much healthier and allows them to grieve the loss of the child they dreamed of and learn to accept and truly bond with the child they have.
2. Feeling jealous of their child. Parents with low self-esteem and unfulfilled childhood wishes can develop jealous feelings towards their own children. They struggle to accept and integrate these feelings of envy which often can be masked as competition, harsh discipline and criticism of their child that has what they wanted during their childhood.
3. Comparing siblings. Parents are notorious for comparing sibling children and deciding that one fails short of the other. When they do this they stereotype their children, failing to allow them to become themselves and instead typecasting them into certain roles that are most comfortable for the parents and unhealthy for the children.
4. Wanting a child of the opposite sex. Parents may have had their heart set on having a boy or a girl and instead they give birth to the opposite gender. When this occurs, grieving helps to resolve the disappointment and helps to allow the parent to bond with their child.
5. Favoring one child over another. Parents sometimes have a favorite child based on their own unhealthy needs and expectations. It’s not healthy to love one child over another and most commonly this develops out of a parent’s need to have one special child as their ally which allows them to feel safe.
6. Wishing negative thoughts on other children. When parents wish for bad things to happen to other children, whether it’s missing a basket in a game of basketball or not getting a part in the school play; these negative thoughts occur because parents project their own insecurities on to their children. These parents feel that their child has to be more successful than any other child in order to feel safe and valued. When parents acknowledge their desire for their children to be “the best”, they can assess their own unhealthy self-image and separate their needs for perfection and success from their child’s needs.
Parents love their children and yet they sometimes confuse their child’s needs with their own needs in order to fulfill unmet wishes in their lives. Parents can resolve their conflicts by addressing them head on. When parents are able to grieve and accept their disappointments and resolve their inner conflicts, they can build strong connections to their children. Parents who risk sharing their darkest thoughts and feelings are able to begin the process of becoming a whole and complete integrated self, whereby they can fully connect to themselves and subsequently their children.