PROVO — After living through a plane crash with her husband, Stephanie Nielson spent months in a medically induced coma recovering from her injuries, which included burns to 80 percent of her body.
After waking from her coma, Nielson said she struggled with discouragement during her painful recovery while also working to re-enter the lives of her children. Despite ongoing challenges and physical pain, she said Saturday she is back to being a mother, which was her dream for as long as she can remember.
"My family is my greatest accomplishment," Nielson said. "The sole reason I came back from the dead was because I know that I’m their mother and I am irreplaceable."
Nielson's remarks came during a parenting conference held Saturday at the Utah Valley Convention Center. The event was organized by Uplift Families, a nonprofit initiative helmed by Utah first lady Jeanette Herbert that provides resources and information for parents.
The conference consisted of a dinner for guests and a series of brief presentations on the subject of parenting. Presenters included Herbert and her husband, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, as well as former NFL player Chad Lewis and authors Richard and Linda Eyre.
In her opening remarks, Jeanette Herbert said the goal of Uplift Families is to help parents turn "the job of parenting into the joy of parenting." The role of parents is not to just raise good kids, she said, but to raise children with the skill set they need to be productive adults.
"Unlike other professions, parents take on this job of parenting with very little instruction," she said. "We’re just basically expected to learn as we go. Unfortunately we don’t get do-overs. We get one shot at this."
Today's children are growing up in a different world from their parents, but parents can still set an example of principled, values-based living, Utah's first lady said.
"They’re being bombarded daily with wrong messages and negative influences, and it is hard sometimes for their young minds to tune them out or turn them off," she said.
During their presentation, the Eyres shared their five basic principles of all families — the need to not be overly concerned with small issues; to remember each child is unique; to preserve time for personal needs; to prioritize children while they live in the home; and to give children more by giving them less.
"You need to restrain yourself, parents," Richard Eyre said. "Your instinct is to give them everything. It is the worst thing you could do."
The Eyres also encouraged parents to maintain their spouses as their first priority, or in the case of single parents, to make sure to emphasize their own happiness.
"You get so overly devoted to children that you leave yourself out and you leave your spouse out, and you're headed for trouble," Richard Eyre said.
More information on Uplift Families can be found on the organization's website, www.upliftutahfamilies.org.
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