Vicarious living through one’s children can be both conscious and unconscious. Many parents transfer their hopes and dreams onto their children. These may be unfulfilled childhood dreams such as dad not making it into the first rugby team or mum not making it to med school, and then doing everything in their power to make it happen for their child. Another common one is that parents want to give their children more opportunities than they had when they were growing up, sometimes smothering a child and their unique potential. Of course, there are many more.
Tips to help parents avoid vicarious living
- Don’t be hyper-focused on your child
- Get a life
- Have your own goals and dreams
- Acknowledge that your child is not you
- Celebrate your child’s unique talents, strengths and interests that may be completely different to yours
- Disentangle your dreams from your child’s life
- You can’t choose your path. You can guide but ultimately you need to help your child to carve out their own unique path for themselves.
- Help your child to develop wide and deep foundations so that they are prepared for anything
- Celebrate the WHO not just the WHAT. In a fast-changing world, what your child ultimately does or sells in the world of work will change. Who they are will be their compass in making choices along the way. This is where our focus should be.
- Help them to tell their own unique story, not yours
Children who feel they cannot live up to their parents dreams or expectations, or who do so really well but feel manipulated to do so, often carry resentment, frustration, anger and disillusionment. Fear of failure or the feeling of living a lie may colour their lives and prevent them from being their authentic selves. For many, this can result in self-destructive, negative attention-seeking behaviour as they struggle to unveil who they really are.
Rather than a mini-me, create a child of substance
Hold the space for your child to grow into who they are rather than mini versions of you. Take them on a journey of discovery of themselves, they are a unique individual. Look forward to hearing the verse they will one day sing. The contribution they will make to the world in their on way. Create a child of substance who will be:
- Able to concentrate and focus
- Committed to their own growth and learning
- Knowledgeable about themselves
- Good at making choices and decisions
- Able to work independently and in a group
- Able to solve problems
- Able to set their own goals, realistic ones, that they can achieve
- Someone who believes in themselves and is able to push themselves to become better
Facilitate don’t drive
Provide your child with many canvases on which they can express, explore and discover themselves, such as home, sporting and cultural activities. Watch with interest to see what grabs them, what holds their attention and which platforms showcase their talent. Suspend your own judgement from time-to-time and merely observe what is.
Empower your child to be the architect and storyteller of his/her own life. As parents we are the custodians and facilitators of the process, not the drivers. This is a very different space to living our your hopes and dreams vicariously through your children. Vicarious living is not a great strategy if you are hoping future-proof your child.
To book Nikki to present her acclaimed talk, Future-proof your Child for your group, email email@example.com