As a former teacher, I’m writing to you from the heart. As a parent myself, and a former teacher and as a humanitarian, yes, I’m going to suggest how you parent your sweet children. You may choose to tune out here and click off my letter or maybe you just might want to read what I have to say to see if it resonates with you.
Let me begin by telling you I am not the perfect parent, teacher nor humanitarian. Not by a long shot am I perfect. But I feel the need to tell you honestly what I’m seeing and it’s not pretty dear friends. You may or may not be aware of it, but it’s there – that wounded spot between you and your child. You know the one I mean. You sense it because you know that he’s mad with you and you feel guilty for whatever you’ve not done. Or maybe you’re really as clueless about it as you seem. But I don’t buy it. I think you know, but you’re afraid to touch that wounded part of your child and yourself.
Example: You are busy with work, your family, your life and all that’s around you. You live in a tizzy of busy because you are doing the best you can to provide for your family, to work at your career, to be a good wife/husband, to parent, to raise your family and maybe even take care of your own parents as well. You’re stressed beyond words and everyone knows it. You are doing the best you can and I applaud you. But I know you’re not happy because that wound rears its ugly head when it comes to your child.
You feel guilty because your child is wounded by you. There, let’s speak plainly. What you say, how you react, what you don’t say or don’t do, has built up a laundry list in your child’s mind to feel wounded by you. What’s worse is that you think that what he holds against you may be true and if you had more time, if you weren’t working, if you didn’t have so many children, etc., you’d not have made those mistakes. You’ve got a litany of excuses and guilt that he doesn’t want to hear. But you’re not telling him that anyway. You’re living with the wound yourself and it’s festering in your daily interactions with him. It’s like a runaway train which at every non-stop at a station, gets worse and the momentum of hurt builds.
You must be willing to change in order for you and your child to begin to rebuild your relationship. I’ve found that honesty works well here as it almost always does when it comes to communication between people, be it parent/child relationships or for that matter, any relationship between people. Open communication is key. Taking the quiet opportunity when there’s not a lot of stress involved between you, makes it easier for each person to hear what the other person is saying. Blame is not an option here so don’t bring it into the conversation. Explain clearly what you expect from your child and what he can expect from you. Show examples of when he was successful and when you were as well and highlight the times when you worked together and succeeded at a common goal. Remind him of the fun times together and let him know how you miss that connection with him. Tell him plainly how you miss that connection and how you would like to reconnect and ask him for advice. Let him tell you what he needs from you and you can do the same. Be on the same page as a team. Keep the dialogue open and be ready to hear how he feels even if it’s hard. It may take a few conversations before he will open up, but most teenagers want to reconnect because they need you as much as you need them. But you need to set the example for that give and take trusting conversation and not react to anything he says that you may not like. You need to be the grownup and own how what’s happened makes him feel, especially when you may find it hitting too close to home. It’s hard to accept when your teenager tells you the truth as he sees it and you may have to accept that he’s right and not give excuses as to why you did whatever it is that you did. This is not to say that you need to take all the blame and guilt here either, for it’s a two way street in any relationship. But in giving your child the opportunity to speak his mind respectfully, just as it will be when you are given the same opportunity, allows for healing to begin.
It takes time to repair wounds for anyone, but especially that parent/child relationship as it sets the stage for his future relationships. Even the most wounded of us wants peace and forgiveness and to feel loved and respected. I don’t think it’s ever too late to try, for you never know when you may succeed.
Relationships fall apart over time and don’t always heal quickly. But with patience and kindness we can repair and reconnect with others in the most miraculous of ways. It takes a commitment to reconnect, but I’ve found that it’s so well-worth it when we do!
Work on making your home a safe and loving environment where family means that we love each other and that we work together for the common good and love that binds us. You role model that in your home – peace, love, kindness – so foster it in every moment!
Be kind to yourself, dear parent. Sometimes life just happens the way it does, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve our relationships with effort on both parts. If you really feel disconnected from your child, make the effort and if it’s not too late, you may be surprised at the amazing relationship that comes out of your opening up the conversation to reconnect in the first place!