Chosen for Your Child
by eric karls
Sitting across the office from her, I could see tears starting to well up in her eyes. Over the course of 30 minutes, she vented to me the concerns and suggestions from teachers, school counselors, mental health professionals, and doctors. These experts had good advice and seemed to care about her daughter, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was ill-equipped to make these decisions. She felt overwhelmed by the laundry list of suggestions and the feeling that some of them didn’t fit the kid she had seen grow up over the last 10 years. But she felt pressured, and her insecurity made her second-guess whether she knew what was best for her daughter.
She wasn’t crying from what she had shared; she was crying because of what she had heard. Witnessing her moment of struggle, the real, messy, and difficult season she was in, I was prompted from within to not share advice with her but, instead, an affirmation. “You are her mother, the expert on your daughter, and you were chosen to love and guide her.”
At these words, her shoulders relaxed, and she audibly breathed a sigh of relief. The words seemed simple to me, but they were a reassurance and purpose to her. They were a realized identity and a shrinking of lies that she had been believing.
“You are her mother"
I have found this to be one of my biggest tools when helping parents of struggling kids. Identity is one of the most important things I advocate to the kids I work with. We all have a good purpose, and we all have the ability to accomplish it. It only dawned on me last year that parents also need to hear this. So often, we (I have three kids under the age of 8) search for a quick answer to help solve the issues we see in our kids. We enlist the help of experts in hopes of finding the solution we need, but this can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of the correct path forward.
A cycle can occur when we forget that our role is to be the detective and find solutions that work for each of our kids. We can lose a sense of confidence and agency when we stop believing that we are our child’s best advocate and fall victim to our own negative narrative. This does not minimize the importance of people who can help you find solutions for problems you see. Doctors, psychologists, therapists, teachers, school staff, and other professionals can have valuable advice. They genuinely want to help, but nothing can replace your day-to-day, in-the-trenches, firsthand life experience with your child.
You are the expert! You have seen firsthand the highs and lows of your child. You witnessed her first words. You experienced the smile she made twirling around your finger as you danced in the living room and the tears after the run-in with the fence as you tried to coach her down the bunny hill while skiing for the first time. And the same child who can instantly recognize the word poop but can’t read scoop, loop, hoop, or whoop.
My point is that no matter how bad it is (obviously not including abuse or neglect), you were still chosen to parent this particular child. Call it natural selection, fate, God’s providence, or whatever else you want; you have a job to do that is good, and you have the skills, tools, and resources available to do it. Are you going to fall short? Absolutely. Being a parent constantly feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses. Are you going to need help? Of course, you don’t have all the answers, but you can learn. Enlisting expert help when needed - for direction and guidance - shows excellent strength and wisdom but doesn’t negate the earned knowledge of your child.
All of this brings me back to the mother at the story's beginning. After hearing my not-too-original and overly simple affirmation, she felt more confident and convinced that she could be the parent her daughter needed. She left my office that night with new ways to communicate with her daughter, some tips to de-escalate fights, but more than anything, remembering that she was made for this journey with her child. She could make decisions that she knew were challenging, but in her daughter’s best interest. She had the courage to filter through some of the recommendations she had heard from the professionals and was empowered to accept and implement the ones that made sense, even though they were hard.
Remember, parenting is a journey, and even in the lowest seasons, no one can replace you as the expert on your child. So, reach out for help and get advice when you need it. But, remain confident and battle through the struggles with your child with the knowledge that you were specifically chosen for them.
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