If you are not used to disclosing your emotions, doing so might feel uncomfortable at first, but it is worth
taking the risk and extending your comfort zone a little.
When you express your feelings and receive emotional
support, you will notice how much more space you have
for your child afterward, and how much more loving
you feel. Emotional maintenance is essential for parents
if we want to keep renewing the joy of being a parent.
There are many of us, across a range of cultures,
tending toward shyness about all kinds of feelings; in
the modern world, especially, we don’t seem to value
emotions. Even joy is sometimes understated; we seem
to hold it back as much as the other emotions. Often,
life’s pleasures pass us by simply because we don’t take
a moment to focus on them, much like walking past a
beautiful view without turning our heads to see…with-out saying, “Wow!” So why not make a point of noticing
every day something about your child that gives you
pleasure, that uplifts your spirit or tickles your heart. It
could be something new your child learns to do, one of
her smiles, something funny he says, or a small act of
kindness. Stop to breathe in the joy of this moment, and
then tell someone about it. Share your joy and revel in it.
When your joy is savored, and then shared, it is magnified—it is as if your body becomes better at producing it.
You deserve for parenting to be more than a job: It could
be your most exciting adventure.
What are a Parent’s Fundamental Needs?
Caring for a baby or child might be the greatest feat of
love in action that you have ever done and will ever do
again. You owe it to yourself—and to your child—to remember that you also have needs. If you are to nourish a
child emotionally, then you also need emotional nourishment. I am going to propose a list of fundamental emotional needs that I believe all parents have. And unless
these emotional needs are met, our “emotional wells”
run dry—and then parenting suffers. Of course, you
might see this list of emotional needs a little differently
and may like to alter it—add a few, subtract a few—to fit
how you feel. The main thing is that you pay attention to
your emotional needs and make a place for them in your
life as a parent.
Consider the following as what you as a parent
require, and deserve:
▪ Emotional support from a partner (and if no
partner is available, a double dose of the next point).
▪ Emotional support from family or friends.
▪ Some space to yourself, some time to be alone,
even if only a few minutes each day.
▪ Some regular, quality time with other adults
(for conversation, and so on).
▪ Having fun—in whatever way you can fit it into
▪ Some physically pleasurable activities, such as
sunbaking, having a massage, listening to music,
playing music, dancing, cycling, playing your sport,
walking in nature and so forth, as often as you can
I am aware that at this point many readers will be
thinking: Get real. I’m up to my earlobes in diapers, the
house is a mess, the garden is a junkyard and we don’t
even know how we’ll make the rent (or the mortgage)
payment this month. You think I’ve got time for fun If
at first glance my “Parents’ Bill of Rights” above seems
unrealistic, it is only because of our bizarre modern ideas
of isolated parenting. It is a far more unrealistic proposi-
tion to think that, if we hope to find the joy that is our
birthright, we can go on parenting alone in our modern
nuclear family units. Parenting is meant to be done in a
supportive group, and when it is—when parents, fami-
lies and communities help each other, it is far more likely
that we will have all our emotional needs met. It is when
we ourselves feel seen and heard, when we feel held in
a web of community, that we pass on to our children the
best that we have inside us. In the adventure of parent-
ing, pleasure is not a luxury—it is a necessity. May you
and your family find ever more of the sublime treasures
that the heart connection can bring.
▪ Doing some (or at least a little!) activity that is
creative or personally meaningful. For example:
paid or volunteer work, some study, a craft, cooking,
gardening, reading or yoga.
This article was adapted from passages in Heart to Heart Parenting, by
Australian psychologist Robin Grille. The U.S. edition of this book was
published in Spring 2012.
Robin Grille is a father, psychologist in private
practice, and a parenting educator. His articles on
parenting and child development have been widely
published and translated around the world. Robin’s
first book, 2005’s Parenting for a Peaceful World, has
received international acclaim, and his 2008 follow-
up, Heart to Heart Parenting, has recently been
published in the U.S. Robin’s work is animated by his
belief that humanity’s future is largely dependent
on the way we collectively relate to our children.
Drawing from more than 20 years’ clinical experience
and from leading-edge neuropsychological research,
Robin’s seminars and courses focus on healthy emo-
tional development for children as well as parents,
while building supportive, cooperative parenting communities. To
find out more about Robin’s work, visit our-emotional-health.com and
hearttoheartparenting.org. Check out Pathways’ Facebook page for
upcoming teleconferences with Robin! View article resources and author
information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.