My clients often ask me “How do I know when I’m done with childhood issues?” I respond that feeling neutral without a positive or negative charge is one definition that works for me. No longer being loaded up with intense feelings, that someone has made sense of their story and embraced the complications of it. Dan Siegel is a leading neuroscientist who wrote a book on parenting with Mary Hartzell, his daughter’s day care director titled Parenting From The Inside Out. He decided to write this book because research has shown that the best predictor of good parenting is all about how the parent makes sense of their life. It’s NOT whether they had a good or a bad life. Thus the title of the book. They offer exercises at the end of each chapter that helps anybody (not just parents) to think through how to be more healthy in making sense of your life.
It’s important to carry around your story without the twist of anger, resentments or blame. Unfinished business can really haunt people. When my son was very young I would often take him to the zoo. One day I had a meeting to attend and we had to skip the guerillas. For a year and a half, every time we drove by the zoo my son would say “Mom, remember the time we missed the guerillas?” It didn’t matter how often he saw the guerillas all the other days, since the day he missed out. Unfinished business lingers. Making sense of your own growing up and your own story usually requires embracing more complicatedness. There are always many ways to reach a more honest, deeper understanding. Once you acheive this, everything works better including parenting.