Greatest New Year's Resolution: Heal Yourself, Heal Your Family

Happy Family

It’s never too late to heal. It’s never too late to love – yourself and your children. You can be the line in the sand.

As a clinician I seem to get “batches” of similar clients. It seems to be a common phenomenon in my profession.

Currently I’m getting a batch of parents who feel they have been particularly harsh, overly-controlling, neglectful, unloving, disconnected or even abusive of their children. They feel terrible, and are often filled with regret, guilt and self-hatred. Some of them try to justify their actions, but soon catch themselves out. They are frequently plagued with addiction, over-eating or other unwanted urges. Much of the time, they feel helpless, like they’ve irreversibly stuffed up. Well the good news is they’re wrong.

The relief they feel when they realise they can heal, their children can heal also, it’s never too late and their healing will generate their children’s healing is palpable. And often this realisation is followed by tears – tears of relief and hope.

Many parents, albeit unconsciously, repeat the patterns of their past. They can be plagued by a background of dysfunctional parenting which they themselves were forced to live through.  Suddenly their conscious ability to recognise these repeated patterns is triggered by noticing the resulting impact on their child or children.

The interesting thing to note here is children are basically a mirror or reflection of the environment they’re in. When I get a parent asking me to “fix” their 11-year-old who has started “acting out”, for example refusing to go to school, or displaying compulsive behaviour or anxiety, I explain that the child is responding to what’s going on in the environment around him or her. Essentially, you can’t expect to take someone who is in a difficult, destructive or toxic school or family environment, “help them fix themselves” internally and then send them straight back into the same external environment that broke them down and expect him to “stay fixed”.

It’s for this reason that the best thing a parent can do to help their child is heal their own hurts, fears, emotional scars, anxieties, sense of inadequacy and ability to love. Then, once the parent is able to be more open, loving, kind and connected, the child will be able to begin to heal. If the child or teenager then needs to heal the damage they have been carrying, they will be able to do so – when they are ready – without going back into the interactions that generated the problem they are reflecting.

So parents who are able to take responsibility for the impact they have on their children are making an incredibly empowering choice – for both themselves and their child.

The beautiful truth is:

  • You can change your internal state.
  • You can heal from inside out.
  • This choice will change your life.
  • It will change your interaction with your partner if you have one.
  • Your changes will have a positive effect on your interaction with your children.
  • Your entire family dynamic will revolutionise, especially if you all heal together.
  • This will change the way your children function and grow up.
  • It will also change the way your children parent their children.
  • This will change the way your children’s children parent.
  • So your change as a parent can not only change the trajectory of your life, but also that of your children’s life, and the life of their children’s children.
  • This means you can be the line in the sand. You can change the course of history.

You can be the line in the sand. You can change the course of history.

I’ve witnessed so many lives change in the most incredible ways, as parents have come to realise they can heal and in doing so they help their children to heal as well.

Cathy and Lauren’s Story

Cathy and her gorgeous 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, illustrate a wonderful example of what’s possible. (Please note, names and some minor details have been changed for the sake of anonymity.)

Cathy and Lauren arrived together. Upon meeting them, Lauren presented as a highly anxious teenager who was trapped in a shell of self-doubt, fear and anxiety. She felt helpless and unable to change. She’s seen psychologists and counsellors to no effect. She had felt increasingly debilitated in her unhappiness. She found talking about the problems made them seem worse. Her doctor had recommended anxiety medication, but fortunately Cathy had refused to take the psychotropic drug route – at least not before she’d tried every other option. Lauren was sleeping badly, waking exhausted, and was struggling with her school work. She was also struggling socially and emotionally at school, with both peers and teachers. She wanted to change schools, which her parents were reluctant to allow. Lauren felt trapped and overly controlled, and this made her feel even more trapped. Her increasing sense of futility had recently resulted in destructive behaviour which Cathy had noticed. This is what prompted Cathy to seek my assistance.

Cathy presented as a highly anxious mother who was exhausted by her own constant need for perfection and control. She was extremely worried about Lauren. She wanted to be a loving mother and was concerned about the part she may have unintentionally played in Lauren’s anxiety and recent self-destructive choices. I had spoken to Cathy about the interplay between parents and their children and she, most admirably, had decided to do the healing work herself so that whatever negative impact she may have been having on Lauren could be corrected.

The processes were explained to Cathy and Lauren and both were keen to start their healing journey. Lauren started first.

A few weeks later both mum and daughter were literally like new people. Lauren had blossomed in unimaginable ways. She was out socialising again when before she was fearful to leave home. She now felt repelled by even the thought of self-destructive behaviour. She was literally like a new kid. The timid teenager had blossomed into an amazing calm, confident and happy young woman. She had been an inspiration to her mother, and to her younger sister.

Cathy couldn’t believe the changes in Lauren. She was absolutely blown away. She was so thrilled to have her happy, lively daughter back. She commenced her own healing process and couldn’t believe how rapid and permanent the changes were. She completely surrendered the over-controlling aspects of herself which had turned her into an easy-going, super relaxed, fun mother. She trusted her daughter to make wise choices, and Lauren didn’t let her down. Cathy went from a regimented, stressful running of her household to creating a happy, relaxed, inclusive, supportive family environment. The difference in Cathy was incredible. She even stopped obsessing about food, which paradoxically was creating unhealthy relationships to food for all family members, including herself. It was such a blessing to see how a happy healthy mum can change the entire family dynamic. I was so proud of Cathy. She’d even convinced her husband to allow Lauren to change schools – but the irony is once Lauren developed her confidence and was no longer bothered by the actions of teachers and peers, she no longer wanted to change schools. There was a comfort in knowing that she would be supported by her parents if she was to change her mind though.

It’s quite remarkable how quickly we can change and heal when we want to. We forget that life is simply a series of choices. We choose what we think, what we do, what we decide to feel, and how we decide how we respond to events, circumstances, situations and others.

We forget that we change every moment of every day. In fact change is synonymous with life. Without change there would be no life. We simply forget that we can choose the changes we want.

We change every moment of every day. In fact change is synonymous with life. Without change there would be no life. We simply forget that we can choose the changes we want.

When it comes to our family there is no greater change we can make than to heal, to connect and to love. And if we heal ourselves, in doing so we automatically begin to heal the relationships that matter most to us.

Of course, it’s much better to do no harm in the first place. We can never love our children too much.

However, for those who have caught themselves on an auto-pilot they no longer want to be on, it’s never too late to change.

10 Important Reminders:

  1. Parents do not own their children. Our children are not our possessions. They have come to us and through us. But they do not belong to us. They belong to themselves.
  1. Our job as parents is to help our children be happy independent adults. We need to equip our children with the tools and resources they need in order to become happy, confident, fulfilled, independent adults.
  1. Children need to learn about life – in their own way. As parents our role is to provide a loving environment in which children feel safe to try new things and learn organically.
  1. We can learn from toddlers. A toddler needs to learn to walk, and in doing so they need to learn what happens when they fall over from time to time. Our role as parents is to kiss them better when they fall over and gently, kindly, lovingly encourage them to keep walking. We believe in them. We support them. And we let them know they can do it.
  1. Teenagers are preparing to walk life as an adult. In the same way that a toddler needs to learn how to walk, teenagers need to try new things, learn what works out well and what doesn’t. When they make a “mistake” or fall over, the best thing we can do is be there to support them, encourage them and love them. Soon they will be independent adults and if they haven’t had the opportunity to metaphorically “fall over” in a safe environment, their ability to be a confident autonomous happy adult will be greatly diminished.
  1. There is no such thing as a mistake. “Mistakes” are simply learning opportunities. This is a wonderful freedom we can share with our children. It will give them the ability to go with the flow in life, live in the moment and be spontaneous.
  1. Protecting our children from life can prevent them navigating through life. As parents, we often feel like it’s our job to prevent our children from experiencing suffering. Especially when they enter the teen years, where their very nature is a drive to become increasingly independent and autonomous, the worst thing we can do it try to control them in order to “protect” them from harm or undesirable decisions and outcomes. Not only does this not protect teenagers, but it will force them to pull away from us further in order to become the independent adult they are programmed to become. To try and stop them from experimenting with life simply goes against human nature – it would literally be the same as trying to stop the toddler falling over when they learn to walk. For this reason, parents who overprotect or over-control teens are unwittingly preventing their teens from preparing for adulthood. Additionally, they will drive a breakdown in their relationship with their teen.
  1. The beautiful Buddhist fable offers a wonderful metaphor and understanding. I often refer to the lovely famous fable in which a kind old man cuts a hole in the end of a cocoon to help the butterfly escape it’s struggle. The butterfly drops to the ground bloated and heavy, having not been through the process of what the Buddhist calls “suffering” that pushing through the cocoon provides. This process is vital as it literally allows the butterfly to fly – by squashing the butterflies body in preparation for flight. Having been “saved” from struggle by the kind old man, the butterfly is unable to take flight and sadly emerges bloated, heavy, flightless and dies.
  1. The more we trust our children the more trustworthy they are likely to be. It’s basic human nature. When someone sees good in us, we feel good – and this in turn allows us to believe we are good. Then we want to do whatever it is that enabled them to see the good in us. It’s a pretty simple understanding. If we trust our kids, especially our teens, they are much more likely to live that reality and be trustworthy. If we are able to support rather than judge our teen if they share with us when they feel they’ve “fallen over” or “messed up”, we will be able to guide them subtly and enable them to learn in more powerful ways.
  1. Remember we can never love our children too much. There is no such thing as too much love and support. However, we do need to be careful not to see control as love or support. We also need to resist doing too much for our children – the sooner they can become independent and self-sufficient, the more happy and confident they will be.
Perhaps the greatest New Year resolution possible is healing ourselves and our family.
Disclaimer. Lyn Megan Macpherson is not a medical doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and does not claim to be one. She therefore holds no legal liability for the choices of readers who are encouraged to make informed decisions and seek medical advice if required.

Lyn Macpherson
Lyn Macpherson


2 Responses


September 26, 2022

Thanks for your lovely comment Nicole. Yes, it’s so powerful and incredible when we end destructive cycles – which are often unconscious and generational. Just incredible the way it changes the whole family dynamic. One of my clients talks about this in video testimonials. Look at Leanne’s story – just beautiful x


September 26, 2022

Thank you Lyn for sharing your thoughts and wisdom from your daily experiences, so grateful to have this knowledge available to reference to help make better parents and happy children this information brings awareness to stop the cycle of dysfunction which is so prevalent in families today. Thanks for sharing NIcole x

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