Every parent has experienced the questions, doubts and uncertainties that accompany raising children. It may be the apprehension we feel when we bring our firstborn home, the fear that arises on the first day of school or with any number of "firsts", or the pain we experience when our children go through hardship and challenges. Parenting tests everything we thought we were certain about.
Kabbalist Rav Berg reminds us that we can proactively choose to maintain a consciousness of certainty even when the situation in front us has us questioning everything we thought we knew: "To manifest a spiritual protection shield, it is imperative that the consciousness of certainty is in every decision that we make... In those moments of chaos when we struggle, remember that we have that choice to connect to the power of certainty.”
What is certainty? Certainty is trusting the Creator, knowing that everything that happens to our children (and to each of us) is for their (and our own) benefit and growth. It is accepting what is, no matter what is going on in our lives, knowing it is ultimately for the best. Certainty doesn’t hope, certainty knows without a doubt. Certainty is accepting the idea that life’s process really is the purpose.
Spiritually, we know that the more a person succumbs to uncertainty, the more they open themselves up to more uncertainty and chaos. When we lose perspective, worry, start getting worked up, and find ourselves asking ‘why is this happening to me?’ we are opening the door wider for more doubt and fear to creep in. As it applies to parenting, when we operate from a place of uncertainty and fear, it ripples out and affects our children. It instills the same fears and doubts within them and affects how we can help them navigate challenges.
Our children will learn from us in ways that we could never fully understand, control, or to be frank, desire. What we should strive for is to create an environment with a support system that honors and challenges them to be the best version of themselves. A 2016 report published by The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy states that a child’s natural fears can be compounded when a parent is fearful. The report's author, family therapist Lisa Pisha, writes that "our acquisition of fears and their negative influence is determined by what our parents have modeled for us. We learn how to handle fear and what to be afraid of from our family." Overprotective parents hinder a child's "basic psychological need for autonomy and competence," resulting in depression and lower satisfaction in life according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
If we base our parenting decisions on our uncertainties, we end up stifling our children’s own ability to experience the world for themselves, to learn and grow into who they are meant to be. Doubts not only limit us, but they cause us to place unnecessary limitations on our children. This can only lead to resentment over time. I have discussed the concept of raising our children with an open hand rather than a closed fist. What does it mean? The closed fist represents threat, rejection, anger, and withholding, whereas the open hand brings guidance, kindness, support, appreciation, and connection to mind. Closed fist parenting is when we see ourselves as rulers over our children and comes from a place of control. Open hand parenting is when we see ourselves as teachers and guides to our children and respect them as a unique individual growing into their own person.
This doesn't mean we shouldn’t get involved and protect our children when necessary. It also doesn't mean that we should be overly permissive. Having certainty allows us to see more clearly when we should step in to set boundaries or when to step back and allow our children to problem solve for themselves because from this space we are not operating from a place of fear. Trusting in the Creator and trusting our children's spiritual process cultivates respect between parent and child. When our children know we have their backs while at the same time we respect their independence, they are far more likely to come to us for support and counsel when it really matters.
When my children come to me with their pain, whether it’s a setback, rejection or disappointment I’m prepared with spiritual teachings and kabbalistic tools to help them. I admit, my first, immediate response is to want to protect them and remove their pain, but then this consciousness I have worked hard to cultivate sets in. It is inspiring to me to show my children that there are things to learn from any pain they experience and how to use those experiences as opportunities for growth.
A powerful tool for strengthening our certainty and trust in the Creator's plan for our family is meditating on the 72 Name for "Absolute Certainty", Ayin Resh Yud. The kabbalists explain that by simply scanning this 3 letter combination from right to left and regularly meditating on its shape, certainty fills our consciousness. It's a simple tool we can share with our children.
It is through life’s challenges that we can find the greatest gifts, but we need to know how to look for them, and more importantly, appreciate them. We will face struggles in life and so will our children. It's unavoidable, but with a consciousness of certainty, we can prepare our children to rise above any challenge they face.