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Parenting Mistakes I’ve Made {The Series}

Parenting Mistakes

If you've been reading here recently, you know I have started a series admitting some of the parenting mistakes I regret. My hope is to encourage you in your parenting journey and give you hope that you can recover from your mistakes.

One of the mistakes I made, in which I had only the best intentions, was isolating my children until I could see that one of them was actually depressed about having no friends.

Now, I don't mean that she was sad one day about all the girls at church not including her in a slumber party.

I mean that for a period of 4-5 years there were very few kids at church besides our kids, and I did not go out of my way to invite those kids to interact with my own kids.

You see, I had read and believed that brothers and sisters could and should be best friends. And I still do honestly believe that they really can and should be the best of friends.

The problem was that I interpreted this to mean that they did not need any other friends.

And my sensitive daughter began to feel like her brother and sisters liked her and spent time with her because they didn't have any other choice. They had to be her friend. They lived with her. They didn't choose to be her friend. And she didn't have anyone in her life who liked her because they simply wanted to spend time with her.

One day she came to me in tears because she had no friends. None. Zero. And when I comforted her, I couldn't argue with that fact. When I tried to think of who she could count as a friend, I couldn't come up with a single one.

When she confided to me that she was having severe anxiety issues, trouble sleeping, frequent stomach aches, grinding her teeth at night, etc. all because she wondered if she was worthy to have people like her, I was heartbroken!

What had I done???

I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed her anxiety issues before she brought it to my attention, and I was so sad that she felt that there was no one in the world who wanted to spend time with her by their own choice. And all this happened because I hadn't seen the value of including outside people in her life.

I immediately set about figuring out how I could correct the mistake I had made. I invited friends over, signed her up for sports, and encouraged her to participate in youth group activities. I also asked her to forgive me for making such a hurtful mistake.

It wasn't as easy as that though, since her self esteem was very low about how valuable she was as a friend. It took a couple of years for her to gain the confidence to feel like she was valued as a person to those outside her family.

The lesson I learned from this was huge for me. My children needed to know and experience that they are liked by those who are not required to be nice to them. They needed to know they are liked simply because they are fun to be around. And for us this needed to come from outside the family.

Now, I'm not saying every family should automatically take the steps I did and start signing your children up for more activities. (That could cause as much stress as no activities.) I'm saying pay attention to each child's needs. Notice signs of stress and depression. Ask questions.

What is right for our family may not be right for your family. What is right for one child may not be right for every child.

But if you find that a child is suffering needlessly because of a parenting mistake on your part, ask them to forgive your and change your course.

My hope in sharing this story is to warn anyone else from making this same mistake. Your parenting journey will not be mistake-free, but we can learn from our mistakes and correct them to be better parents than we were before.

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  1. Such valuable advice…that I wish I had read years ago. We ended up handling the same situation very similar to the way you did. If you ever have time, I think it could be really helpful to expand a little on the topic of children with depression or anxiety. I’m sure it would be an encouragement to somebody just starting on that path with a child.

  2. Thanks for sharing your stories! I know I’m not the only one who appreciates them. 😉

  3. You are a wise mother! I went through a similar thing with my youngest when we were homeschooling. When we moved from Texas to Pennsylvania, there was no homeschooling support group in our area to get involved in, and it was so hard to find friends for my shy little girl. We moved to Washington 3 years ago and she is now attending public school. She is thriving and has made so many friends here. I wish I had been able to do something about her lack of friends while we were homeschooling in Pennsylvania!

  4. I appreciate you sharing this. It’s not always easy to admit a parenting mistake. I know that it has been easier to facilitate friendships for my oldest daughter because I made friends with other moms when she was a baby. With my youngest daughter I’m not really friends with the moms who have kids her age so there are fewer playdates for her and fewer friendships have been formed. So it is a good reminder to pay attention to that. Thank you.

  5. One of our sons went through a period of time (some years?) of not really having any friends. My husband and I felt bad, and prayed for him, but were aware of two things: At the time, we believed (and still do) that it was better to have no friends than friends who would be a bad influence. The second thing was that he was spared a lot of foolishness, and he matured greatly in that time period. He eventually came out of that period and has many friends now. And he is an amazing, godly young man. We all look back at that “friendless” time and acknowledge how hard it was.

    There are many things, though, that we don’t realize until our children tell us, sometimes years later. I appreciate your advice to be sensitive to your children. Do we ever need God’s help in this, as in everything, as we care for so many and just don’t “catch” what our children aren’t communicating to us. I guess my best advice is to be prayerful.

    • I went through a period of about 7 years with no real friends except for my boyfriend (now husband). I still think of that time as a very lonely period. Something of a black hole. I have many friends now, but I met almost all of them after they were already married and had at least one child. This means that I’ve been to almost no weddings or baby showers! I don’t have female friends that I’ve traveled those transitions with and it’s a sad thing. So yes friendships are important and it should be a priority for parents to make sure they are providing opportunities for friendships to flourish. In my case, I graduated high school and was so busy with college and work that I had no time to join clubs or activities. I lived at home and commuted everyday. Any free time, which was very little, my boyfriend and I would spend together. I am glad that is one solid friendship that has lasted the test of time!