The first title I imagined for the parenting book I would someday write was Please Don’t Let the Light in Your Child’s Eyes Grow Dim. I had run into a 12-year-old girl whom I’d known at the age of four, when she was one of the brightest, most vibrant kids I had ever met. When I saw her at 12, I hardly recognized her. She was slumped into herself, subdued, and her light was … dim.
As I began writing, I was determined to articulate what I had come to understand about how to help children manifest their gifts and head into adulthood with joy and passion. I didn’t know much about writing a book, and even less about publishing or marketing, but years — and many versions later — I wrote the book that a few weeks ago was released by Atria/Simon & Schuster, and which has catalyzed an ongoing stream of opportunities to share my message with parents, including an appearance on the Today Show and a weekly column as the parenting advice columnist for The Huffington Post.
And here is what I discovered that leaves me full of hope: When parents make even a relatively small effort to nourish their child’s heart and soul — while providing them with the comfort that comes from being what I call the calm and confident Captain of the Ship in his life — that child becomes yet another beacon of light that makes the world brighter.
Our kids want to shine. They want the chance to be who they’re meant to be, to stand fully in their gifts. But sometimes, as parents, we feel hopeless. Our kids roll their eyes, slam doors, or tell us we’re the worst mom or dad in the world. They pull away, or lean so heavily on their friends — real or cyber — that we feel we’ve lost them altogether. How can we support them to manifest their unique talents and shine their light if they’re resistant to our guidance?
Again and again I have seen how little it takes to restore a loving connection with our children and teens, and to help them rediscover their magnificence. I am filled with hope that we can be the parents we want to be, and that our kids will respond, because I hear from kids how ready they are to benefit from their parents’ input when they come alongside, rather than at them.
Every child is born with a unique combination of qualities, talents and gifts. As parents, we are entrusted with their care as the the guardians of their spirit. When all goes well, we get to be their greatest champions.
What I have witnessed in the parents I’ve encountered through my work leaves me with unbridled hope that seemingly intractable problems we face — climate change, racism, hunger, war — can be addressed ever more effectively as we unleash the genius of the children we are raising. We’ve only to support them to be all of who they’re meant to be, and then watch the magic unfold.
We asked experts, authors and readers like you to share their stories of Hope. Every day for the next month, you’ll find new tips for optimism on Gaiam Life, the Stream of Consciousness blog and our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And don’t miss the GaiamTV.com Hope Film Festival, with FREE films all month long.