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Every Mother’s Day, I wonder how many of us survived either as kids or moms. Child-rearing is passed down from generation to generation without any written instructions. If the parenting was sufficient, the child most likely grew up to be all right. If the parenting was poor, the child was limited in their adaptability to life.

Traditionally, most parenting skills included structure, responsibility, and moral development. In recent years, we’ve learned there’s a great deal more to child growth and development than these basic elements.

The current addiction crisis is a glaring reminder that kids lack the required tools that make them invulnerable to addiction. Addiction is certainly no one’s fault; no one is to blame for something they did not know. Now that we do know, we can improve.

Raising Addiction-Free Children

While structure and self-discipline are important to self-esteem and social adaptation, they are hardly enough when it comes to raising mentally healthy, addiction-free children. From the moment of birth, certain parenting skills can assure a child will be full of self-love, and invulnerable to seeking outside substitutes in place of genuine good feelings.

Though Sigmund Freud has been downplayed, most theories about child-rearing have spun off of his work. He taught us the critical needs of early childhood, and they are still the most important factors in raising an emotionally healthy child.

Mother-child bonding must start at birth, with the mother emanating love to the infant through bodily and eye-to-eye contact during feedings, and a safe, warm, nurturing environment. The mother serves the child, not the reverse. As the infant grows, parents provide independence fostered with guidance. The child feels good about becoming a separate individual but also learns how to stay safe in so doing.

In addition to a child feeling cared for, it is critically important for a child to learn skills in crisis resolution.

Different Kinds of Trauma

Trauma can be unexpected or deliberate, inside or outside of the home. Accidents, major health issues, and deaths are examples of unanticipated painful experiences. When parents or other role-models neglect, or emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse a child, these events are doubly painful, because children innately expect adults not to hurt them. This unnatural course of events causes a child to feel worthless and less than, creating a void inside that lies in wait for addiction.

Children Are Natural Healers

If a child has unresolved trauma, the trauma is highly likely to fester a wound that can unconsciously dominate the child’s thinking and the subsequent tendency toward addiction.

It’s not the trauma so much as the lack of healing that causes the wound to fester. Whether the trauma is intended or not, it must be addressed.

You probably know of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her contribution to the grieving process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance/forgiveness. When something traumatic happens, a child will go through this process as well. However, when an adult has caused the trauma, children usually blame themselves. Self-blame does not allow healing.

If the trauma is acknowledged and the child is encouraged to talk about what happened, and then feel angry, and sad, the wound will heal. It’s up to the parents to create safety for the child to open up.

No One Is Perfect

When parents acknowledge their mistakes, children are naturally forgiving. When someone else has violated a child, this wound can heal, too, when the parents listen, validate the child’s reactions, and then take appropriate action to ensure the child’s future safety.

If a child feels loved and validated, they experience an inner sense of fulfillment without the need to self-medicate the emptiness and pain.

Mother’s Day Is a Day for Love

Those of us who are mothers can take this day to reflect on how we can be better parents — to our kids and to ourselves. We can understand parental mistakes as not knowing any better, circumstances beyond our control, or repetition of our own wounds.

It is never a good idea to be a dumping ground for a child’s anger. It is always a good idea to be a place for sacred healing that only comes through honesty and respectful communication. If what family members say to one another does not have healing as the primary purpose, the time is not right for communication.

The best amends we can make to ourselves and our children is to be the role models we never had. Rather than hang on to regrets or guilt, we can use that same energy to heal, learn to love ourselves in healthy ways, and keep our hearts wide open to our kids.

Every child has been given the gift of life. If for no other reason, Mother’s Day is a day of gratitude for your birth. Regardless of past mistakes, you are the one in charge of your life now. If your mother was not the kind of parent you needed, it’s never too late to forgive her mistakes. By so doing, you are setting yourself free from the past.

If things went wrong, you could still be a loving person to yourself. My deepest healing with my mom came when I decided to be the best daughter I could be. At that point, I realized all of the good things my mother had given me — encouragement, support, and seeds of spirituality — and the mistakes no longer mattered. Ironically, the better I became, the more I recognized my mother’s qualities.

Are you ready to write your own parenting manual on Mother’s Day?

Can you relate? Please share your comments or insights below.

If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website

About the Author: Dr. Donna Marks believes that the current models for diagnosis, treatment, and addiction have failed. Her mission is to help save at least 10 million lives by 2030, through education and prevention. She has been an author, consultant, educator, public speaker, licensed psychotherapist, instructor of A Course in Miracles, and addictions counselor in private practice in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than thirty years.

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