Emily Edlynn, PhD. is a practicing therapist, creator of The Art & Science of Mom, and mother to three children. She created her site to help other parents and families find calmness in the chaos of parenting today. She does this by diving into topics, researching and writing about them in ways that aim only to share the truth about the realities of being a parent. She wrote an article on her blog titled, "How to Accept Our Children: From Confession to Connection," which highlights the realities, benefits, and difficulties in accepting your children and yourself as a parent. Edlynn says, "If we are honest with ourselves, parenting is a series of dashed hopes from the beginning." The reality of parenting is vastly different than what you likely imagined. From the moment that childbirth began, through the postpartum process and into the life of your child, you might have thought, "What the heck is this?" all while continuing to love and praise your child as best as you can. This realization looks like the precious moments you thought you were going to have ending up being poop-covered and exhaustion-filled. With full honesty, Edlynn reveals, "In my personal evolution as a parent, it took me awhile to realize that my most intense reactions of disappointment and frustration occurred because reality did not match my expectations." In her words, there is a "dirty little secret" to parenting and that is this: acknowledging feelings of loss for the child that you wished for and accepting the truth that sometimes you don't like your child can feel like moments of blasphemy, but they don't have to be. The beauty of it all is that parenting is a transactional experience that can be shared with the others in the community who feel the same as you do; people who can relate to the disappointment and frustration you feel toward your child, along with the weight of the reality that you must love them unconditionally. What you must realize is that repressing the thoughts you have that wish parts of you child were different can actually force you to react more explosively to certain behaviors which in turn, will chip away at your parent-child relationship. "It takes work, attention, time, and energy to show your child across their stages of change and challenge that you deeply love and accept them." However, admitting to yourself that you feel this way toward your child will actually help you avoid resistance to your truth. Resisting less will allow you to open up, confront truth in a healthy way, and improve your relationship with your child. Because of her professional background, Edlynn recognizes that the struggle to acceptance can be much more difficult for parents who were forced to face a medical, psychiatric, or developmental diagnosis with their child. "Whether it is realizing a long road of academic struggles because of a learning disability, a social life far different from peers because of an Autism brain, an unknown stretch of time highly monitoring and worrying about suicidal risk, or even uncertainty that a child may not graduate high school or get married because of a life-limiting medical condition, parents have to accept many realities anyone could wish were different." To achieve acceptance, you must be honest with yourself and those around you that you can trust, so that the truth no longer carries the power of a secret, however your child does not need to be in on this secret. Children are highly sensitive when it comes to parental rejection, so when you are working through your feelings, it's best to do it for them, not with them. When she discusses how parents should accept themselves, Edlynn asks that her readers explore the idea of the "real" parent vs. the "ideal" parent. The biggest discrepancy in those two come from unconscious feelings of "shoulds" that ultimately create frustration and self-criticism. Apply this same level of thinking to your children by asking yourself, "What does the ideal child look like for me? How is that different from what I see in real life with my child?" Your child may surprise you when you actually give them the chance. Focus on their strengths and how they light you up; they may be closer to the ideal child image than you thought. The next step is to try and separate the behavior from the person. "Perhaps one of the most liberating realizations is that who is our child is and how they act doesn't have as much to do with us as we think... Our children's behavior does not need to be a referendum on our parenting." This separation is an important tool to lessen the intensity of our reactions, which keeps the relationship together. Some boundaries and rules are important for your child when it comes to bad behavior, however, think of how those little fights may build up over each day, week, or month. Try to make conflict as constructive as possible because those necessary battles are what allow your child to test limits and build your relationship as a family. In these moments, you will need to have some emotional awareness. "Be aware of your parenting insecurities and fears, because these drive reactivity and irrational thinking." In heated moments of frustration and anger, try challenging how you think about the behavior. "Challenging our beliefs not only helps us react less, but we can then approach a situation." So, when you address a situation with your child, be cautious of your words to avoid over-generalizing undesirable personality traits; separate the behavior from the person. By doing this practice in moments of conflict, you will be helping your child to internalize a more balanced and loving behavior connection. It's going to be hard work, but it will be worth it. All studies show that children who feel loved, accepted, and have a sense of belonging at home are better off in terms of their psychological health and well-being. It is not a straight and easy path. You won't get it right all the time, no parent is perfect, but it will be worth it to continue to try, and eventually, your child will feel the acceptance they deserve.