Children go through phases, particularly during their adolescent years, when they see no logical or justifiable reason to communicate with their parents for any reason other than to have their most basic needs or their material desires met. After spending ten or so years as the apple of their child’s eye, parents are suddenly seen as the “lamest” people on the planet.
Adolescence, the period of a child’s life when they are most vulnerable to outside influences, is rightfully a scary time for parents. Children of this age become the target of many negative influences while at the same time experiencing hormones that are raging out of control. The only influence that they seemingly become deafened to is that of their parents.
From the moment of birth we begin a gradual process of separation from those we are dependent upon. That is how children emotionally mature into adults. This process becomes starkly obvious and seemingly accelerates during the adolescent years, a time when children are mortified at the thought of being seen in public with their parents and spare no feelings when telling them so. But parents should not be fooled by their children’s rejection and rudeness. Children expect the support, guidance, structure, and influence of their parents to remain constant.
Keeping children as safe as humanly possible, especially during adolescence, requires knowing what they are doing, what they are thinking, and who they are associating with. Communication, though difficult, is the key.
My parents had been ineffective in that area so I was determined to get it right for my children. I came from a highly reactionary home. Anger always lay just below the surface, waiting for an excuse to erupt. To knowingly provoke it was masochistic, though logic did not dictate whether or not it would happen—anything could set it off.
My parents often said that my sisters and I could tell them anything. Though they offered that promise with full intentions of upholding their end of the deal, they were emotionally unequipped to fulfill it. The unpredictability of their responses destroyed our ability to trust them with sensitive issues. At a young age I learned how to avoid flare-ups by censoring the truth and lying to them.
Without the benefit of emotional support from my parents during my most vulnerable years, I often engaged in risky behaviors. I survived those years, I believe, purely by the grace of God. Unfortunately I did not come out unscathed; a great deal of damage, some repairable and some not, was done.
Very little is certain when parenting, but when it was my turn I knew precisely what not to do. I knew that establishing open communication and trust with my children ultimately hinged on my reactions so I planned ahead. In anticipation of their difficult years, I began applying my parenting strategies when they were very young.
There were a few glitches in my plan. They withheld information from me a few times, afraid of unprecedented responses, but it worked the majority of the time. My children freely shared the goings on of their lives with me whether good or bad, shocking or humorous. My reactions to their disclosures remained predictably calm, no matter how I felt inside.
When they were wrong I would tell them they were wrong. When discipline was required discipline is what they received, but they knew that it would be doled out reasonably and fairly—that it came from a place of love and was always in their best interest. Every episode became a teaching tool for me and a learning experience for them.
Children best absorb our lessons when they can relate to us. The most effective parents are ones who are real, who do not profess to be perfect. Sharing the mistakes of my past as it related to an issue my child was having always proved to be an effective way to get my point across.
Our home was quiet and serene, a sanctuary for my children’s emotional well-being. I rarely raised my voice, and on the rare occasions that I did my children were first given fair warning. Whenever they heard the tone of my voice change they knew I meant business.
Parenting the way I did was far from easy. It took patience, persistence, and consistency. Though I knew in my heart that my strategy would work, I did not see the full fruits of my labor until my children left the nest.
Though my husband was mostly out of touch with the psychological aspects of child rearing, he was raised well and had a natural instinct for it. Occasionally I overrode his opinions or methods when I believed them to be harmful, but he has always been a phenomenal father and that was rarely necessary. Together we raised two wonderful children.
Our twenty-one year old son, self-assured and excelling, is in his senior year of college. He is in a fraternity and soaking up every ounce of his college experience. He cannot wait to call us and fill us in with the details we’ve missed since the last phone call. He is proud of his parents, highly respects us, and values our opinions and advice. Though he has many friends, he considers none as great as his parents.
Our daughter, twenty-seven, is sophisticated and self-assured. She is a professional who has consistently moved up in her field since graduating from college in 2007. Though she is very independent and always has been, she often seeks out, values, and considers the wisdom of her Mom and Dad. She is more honest in her opinions with us than is sometimes comfortable, but we appreciate her candid, forthright nature. She has always respected us as parents and shared with us as friends.
Everyone hopes for beautiful relationships with their children, and everyone can have them. The theory is simple; trust is the lock—communication is the key.
Boy Holding Portable Music Player – moodboard photography – Creative Commons
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