What if I don’t like my child?

Or what if, worse, I don’t love them?

Love is a many faceted thing. So is liking. Having connections with. Delighting in the presence of. All of these are many faceted.

We have a cultural framework of parenthood that suggests it should be all beauty, all roses, that as parents we should be overflowing with never-ending, unconditional love. We are supposed to be a veritable spring of dewy, fresh, love.

But as humans, we will never be this. It’s an impossible standard – and even if you think you know people who meet that standard, I promise you that you do not. They might not allow you to see when they fall short of that standard, but they do. Every one does. Because again, anything else is impossible.

So rather than judging your relationship with your child on this false, 2D, mirror like standard of dewy love, consider the many facets of 20 sided die.

All parents have complex feelings about their children. For many parents, parenting a disabled or sick child is an even more complex experience. If parents do not acknowledge that elephant on their chest, if parents are not clear about how many sides of the die are hard, even brutal, they will actually be rolling the die to see how they will respond to their child in times of stress.

Instead, when parents are able to name the sides of their die, when they are able to give the elephant on their chest a name, they are able to pick which side of the die to go face up and they are able to work with the elephant to move to the side when they need a break. Parents need to build a connection to understanding their demons, or the demons will wreck havoc.

Spend a few minutes naming every emotion you have towards your child right now. Then start a second list of every emotion you’ve ever felt towards your child. Even if you burn the paper or delete the file afterwards, the first step is naming them all. Because acknowledging what IS is a critical step in parenting disabled or sick kids. Not what you want or wanted or hope or hoped for. But what is. And if not liking – or not loving – your child IS, then that has to be acknowledged before you can be the parent you want to be.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.