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Parenting with Intention and Grace

When our daughter, Sophia, was born she was diagnosed with a syndrome that was responsible for some early health challenges: congenital heart defects, low immunity, difficulty feeding, a severe reaction to dairy, a cyst on her pancreas, and the list goes on. Our world was turned upside down and inside out as we quickly became CHKD frequent flyers. This twist in our journey as parents was tough, but it gave us a unique perspective on parenting. My motto became “parent with intention and grace.”

Intentional parenting is making decisions, choices, and/or creating opportunities with the end result in mind. We don't just react when a problem arises, we prepare before it happens and respond purposely if it does.

I think of grace in the sense of paying a bill. I factor in a grace period with my kiddo. Children are impulsive, and parenting takes time. Our intention has the end goal in mind, and grace has things covered in the meantime.

Ryan and I quickly learned all we could about Sophia's syndrome. We connected with early intervention programs, sought all avenues available to us, and gathered resources so that if a problem presented itself, we had a few tools in our back pocket. We purposely made decisions that would have positive long-term effects on Sophia's overall well-being. We had a long-term goal in mind.

Fast forward 10 years and that same intention has reinvented itself with each age and stage of life. Ryan and I are in the trenches of navigating tweenhood. With a rising middle schooler, most days need an extra scoop of intention and grace. Although consequences need to follow certain behaviors, OUR way of responding will teach the desired behavior or outcome. For example, we've learned when our daughter is overwhelmed with emotion she doesn't think rationally, therefore responds irrationally. When I intentionally remain calm and slow my reaction it gives Sophia a sense of security and time to gain control of her emotions. Every time Sophia makes a good choice on her own, it's a victory. It's like strength training for her brain. The more opportunity she has to practice, the stronger that "good choice" muscle becomes. Intention and grace can be applied in most scenarios where we are feeling challenged.

Sophia is doing quite well and has overcome many odds. Many of her medical challenges have been resolved, while a few minor ones remain. We believe because we chose to parent her with intention and exercise grace, she is an overall a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted tween. So the next time your child throws a fit over doing chores, tells the teacher the pet hamster ate his homework, or gets sassy when you give her directions, think of the letters I and G. No, not Instagram and Google, but intention and grace. What challenges does your school-age child have that could use some I and G?

For more strategies on handling your own parenting challenges, check out CHKD’s Positive Discipline class for parents of kids age 5 through 12 – coming up June 13 at CHKD’s Oakbrooke location in Chesapeake, and on August 29 at Oyster Point in Newport News. For more information, and to register, visit

About Adrianna and Ryan Walden

About Adrianna and Ryan  Walden Ryan and Adrianna Walden have been married for 14 years. The two met when she was working for an arena football team in Norfolk where he was playing football. Ryan is a service coordinator with the Chesapeake Early Intervention Program and Adrianna is a Licensing Specialist for Children's Programs. Both have enjoyed teaching CHKD’s "Happiest Baby" class together for the past eight years. Together they have one daughter, who despite early health issues, is now a thriving and happy school-age child. The Walden's also lead a weekly community group through their church for married couples and their children.