– By Sharon Ashton and Raksha Dave-Gates (Counselling Psychologists)

In May and June, it has become traditional to acknowledge the tremendous importance of parents by presenting cards announcing sentiments like, “You’re #1, Mom” or “You’re the world’s GREATEST Dad”!  These cards also typically reflect cultural norms about what it means to be a good Mom or a good Dad.  They speak of gratitude for a parent’s sacrifices that have provided for the children’s basic needs and they describe many ways that the parent has shown loving care.  Devoting time to help children solve their unique problems with friends or siblings, teaching them to throw a ball or bake a cake, listening to them, loving them even when “bad”, being someone they are proud of, these are some of the parental characteristics that are often described.

An important factor in being that special parent is prioritizing the time that will be required to nurture your relationship with each child.  This will mean developing daily habits that foster solid emotional connections.  For example, staying current with their friendship roster, what they are excited about or worried about, what happened today that was important to them, etc.  Showing affection through touch and words, taking time to “just be” with them, taking an interest in theirschoolwork, their hobbies or their sports—these behaviors become habits only through conscious, consistent repetition.

Greeting cards do not address some ofthe essential good parenting practices that allow children to thrive in families where parents are in chronic patterns of conflict or are engaged in processes of divorce or separation.  Imagine cards with these messages.  Thank you for always remembering that I love both you and Mom (or Dad) and I need to feel safewith both of you.  You didn’t put me in the middle by telling me the details ofyour conflicts.  You didn’t ask me to pick sides.  When you were fuming orfrustrated, you vented with friends and you went to a counselor to work throughhow you would choose to solve your problems.  You were careful to be respectfulbetween each other, at least when I saw or heard you together.  You didn’texpect me to spy or to report back to you about my other parent’s life.  When I was upset with my other parent, you didn’t allow me to put you in the middle. Instead, you helped me learn ways that I could take the matter up with them OR when that didn’t work, you helped me connect with others who could help me letoff steam without getting their own issues caught up with mine.  You didn’t ask me to keep secrets from Dad (or Mom).  If you didn’t want them to know something, don’t let me know it either.

Parenting is a rewarding yet complexand challenging undertaking.  Training and support is readily available inCalgary.  Resources like the 24 hour Parent Development Centre Parent StressLine (265-1117) assist parents in crisis or when they want helpful parentingadvice.  Seminars and materials are available from the justice department toassist parents engaged in separation and divorce.  Find information aboutsigning up for a seminar or download parenting information at this website:  The online edition of Calgary’s Child is another resource that will connect parents to arange of materials and workshop opportunities.  The website