How can I help my children to feel secure and loved?

I married a narcissistic man and clung on irrationally while working myself to the bone. After separating for two years and nearly divorcing, we’re in a much better place now, lessons learned. However, our children’s early years were messy and insecure...


I did my best to be there for them, though true comfort from me was shaky, as I barely had my own head above water. My question is, what can I do to help my son, 17, and daughter, 13, to feel secure and deeply loved? It’s late, I know, but are there positive steps we can take to right those wrongs? My daughter seems to have modelled herself on me and my son is showing selfish tendencies.

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you. Her answer:

I’m slightly confused because the words in your letter are at odds with the underlying feeling. I don’t necessarily suggest that this is the right advice, but when reading it out to my own teenage daughters they both said ‘divorce him’ after the first sentence. Bear in mind that we only know what you are telling  us, but I wanted to illustrate how teenagers are very quick to cut through pussyfooting or fluffy words.

I hope that this concept of deep love is one that your husband also shares, because your children will know what is going on in your relationship, whether or not you put it into words for them.

A 17-year-old with a few selfish tendencies at this stage is absolutely normal. I wonder whether the most healthy thing might be for you to copy your son. What are my needs right now? Who can I trust to support me? These are not selfish questions, but steps towards independence.

One way of putting this is to say that you need to look after your own inner child before you start to translate it to your children. The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests this: ‘Darling, I am here for you. I will take good care of you. I have been so busy. I have neglected you, and now I have learned a way to come back to you.’ Is that what you need to say to yourself, as well as to your children?

Try Thich Nhat Hanh’s inner child work, here.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

More inspiration: Psychologies' first book, Real Confidence, is out now.

Read more about your inner child in our Life Labs blogs here.


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