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For Your Child

“All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Leo Tolstoy

Your family is like other families in many ways. It has its ups and downs, strengths and vulnerabilities, its problems and opportunities. Your family is not perfect nor is it without its moments of perfection. As is true for other families, yours is somewhere between what you hope it can be and what you sometimes fear it might become. Buddha expressed the tension of hope and fear like this, “A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.” Tolstoy’s happy family, Buddha’s beautiful flower garden, and your hope symbolize the potential for harmony and well-being for you and yours.

Just as your child wants your unconditional love and encouragement, you want him to love you, to love himself, to love other people, and to love the world around him. You express your love through hugs, playing, and doing things together. You encourage him to share his feelings, fears, and frustrations. At the same time, you give him the freedom to grow and to experience the bigger world. You want him to have an exciting life of his own, knowing that his relationship with you is secure and predictable.

In addition, you want your child to respect you, to respect himself, to respect other people, and to respect the world about him. You know that much of his attitude toward himself and toward the world about him comes from your attitude about him.

Just as children learn to love by being loved, they learn respect for self and others by being respected. Your behavior, attitudes, and beliefs will be reflected in your child. More than you may ever know, he “does as you do.”

Children also develop attitudes toward themselves and others as a response to the attitudes and beliefs others communicate to them. In part, your child will become what you tell him he will become. You convey this definition of self through your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social interactions with him as well as through the way you relate as his parent. Beyond these things, there is a whole world of influences over which you have little control. Your hope must be that you have nourished and nurtured your child’s potentials so that he can effectively deal with the multiple influences of the world. You hope that your loving respect has been strong enough and clear enough to be integrated into his being as he moves out into a world that may not perceive him as unique. His sense of being special comes from you. You can only trust that it is solid enough to last him a lifetime.

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