I never had a family like I would have liked to have. My mother died when I was a child, and I can’t even remember her face. My father left us with my grandmother for her to take care of us. Although she was good and reared us, she didn’t give us the love that is usually given to one’s children. So I grew up with very low self‑esteem….

I now have two daughters that I can’t love the way I would like to, for my past haunts me. I know that this is bad because they are my daughters; but I don’t know how to love them, since I never had the love of a mother.

Dear Friend,

I am sorry to hear about the emotional pain which naturally resulted from your mother’s death. Every child needs the love of a mother, and I understand that you did not get that. However, none of us can change what happened to you. What we can change is what is happening to your daughters.

You say that you can’t love them the way you would like to, because of your past. Clearly your past has affected who you have become, but it does not have to dictate your daily actions! Nor does it have to ruin your daughter’s lives as it has ruined yours. No doubt it is more difficult for you to show love, yes, but is it impossible? Absolutely not!

You have a decision to make. Are you going to be weak and give in to feelings of self‑pity? Are you going to take the easy way of continuing to concentrate on your own pain? Or will you determine that your difficulties have made you strong — strong enough to focus on the needs of your daughters instead of your own? It’s just a decision, but you have the opportunity to make it again, over and over, every morning.

It’s not hard to love children. So hug them frequently. At least four times a day, tell them you love them. Listen to them. Read to them. Show interest in what they like. Attend all their school functions and sporting events. Provide positive reinforcement for their good choices and for their talents and skills. Say six positive things for every one negative thing. Make fair rules and enforce them with consistent and appropriate discipline. All of these actions say “love” to a child.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, spend time doing what you can. No parent is perfect, so remember that you wouldn’t do it perfectly even if you had grown up with a mother. Children don’t really expect their parents to be perfect, but they do need to hear and be shown that they are loved.

I had a difficult childhood as well. My mother was alive, but she was inebriated much of the time. Her actions taught me how to lie, break promises, and embarrass, endanger, and neglect others. That is why I made a decision that I would never give my children that kind of childhood. I determined that I would use every ounce of my strength to be honest, keep my promises, protect, and spend quality time with my children. I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent, and I made a lot of mistakes. But I know I did my best.

Do your best — every day!