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  • Dear Slavic Christian parents

    “The food finds the table, the money finds the vacation fund, the family even finds a church every Sunday, but somehow our hearts are undiscovered by the two people that most need to know and love us-our parents.”

    -Curt Thompson

    When I heard this quote, I was saddened because I knew how true it rang for my Slavic Christian people. We live in large homes, drive luxurious cars, and travel to expensive places, yet the # 1 complaint in every single one of my clients is: “I don’t feel loved, heard, seen, valued, and accepted by my parents. They took me to music lessons and sports, but they didn’t validate my feelings, couldn’t hold me when I struggled at school, and/or criticized me when I fell short with my grades…” The examples can go on.

    Mom and Dad, did you have your children hoping this is how your relationship with them would look? I would even take a risk and ask, “Did your parents treat you the same way, and you’re following their example?” What would it be like if you focused more on nourishing your child’s heart instead of getting them more gadgets or making them do things that make you look good in front of others and help you feel better about yourself?

    Dear parents: it doesn’t matter what you achieve or possess externally if you don’t love those God gave you. Whether it’s your spouse or, in this quote’s case, your children, you failed if they felt invisible in your mansion and G-Wagon. What does it mean to discover your child’s heart? It starts by knowing your own first. Do you know and accept your thoughts, feelings, and actions, or do you repress and criticize yourself for your internal experiences and external desires?

    Did your parents pursue you to learn how to do that to the next generation, or were you invalidated and rejected, thus continuing that same pattern with your children? Do you explore your child’s fears, hopes, struggles, insecurities, and things that make them feel excited, or do you make them go through the motions: wake up, eat, go to school, go to sports, come home, do homework, have dinner, go to sleep, repeat?

    What would it be like to recognize that they crave a relationship with you as much as you desire one with your parents and that giving them one that also nurtures your heart to what it didn’t have but longs for?

    If you’re wondering, “Ilona, I want this but don’t know where to start.” I want to help you. You can reach out and receive therapeutic support from me, and you can also start with a couple of basic steps.

    First, notice your child: ask what they think and feel, and see their actions. Don’t judge what they share and what you see-simply, observe. 

    Next, sit with them in their response and dialogue with validation. For example, if they say, “I struggled in school today,” you can respond, “I hear that you struggled in school today. Can you tell me more about that? What made it difficult?”

    Simply repeating what you heard and asking open-ended questions helps them feel heard. Then, follow up by validating their experience. For example, you can say, “Sometimes school can feel challenging. How can I support you through this struggle?” Hearing this kind of answer from parents can put a child at ease and help them feel like their experience is not unusual and that there’s nothing wrong with them for feeling that way. 

    This is how you can begin the process of discovering the inner world of your child.

    If you’d like more personal and specific support with any question or dilemma that arises with your child or parenting, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to work with you in therapy.