I hate that feeling. I hadn’t experienced it for a few years so maybe that’s why it disturbed me so much at the end of a recent phone call with one of my girls. If you’re a parent of a pre-teen, teen, or young adult child, you’ve been there. It’s the hopeless feeling you get when you take the blame for your child not getting along with you. We’re the adults in the relationship so if anyone is going to make the relationship work, it’s us—right? Yes and no. Two truths factor into being the healthy parent in relationship with your child.
First, you must remember—it’s not (all) your fault! (We’ll discuss the flip side Wednesday.) Many times in my kids’ teen and young adult years it seemed nothing I said was right. I wasn’t cool enough, smart enough, savvy enough, or even correct enough to be in conversation with them. My views and opinions were as irrelevant as last week’s “trending” list.
The rub came in two ways. One of my strengths is connectedness so when I couldn’t connect with my kids I took it personally. Since I was home with them more than Gene, I was the target of most of the conflicts. I felt they were often upset with me and seldom upset with Gene.
The other rub was (and is) I’m the mom, so Dad and I set the boundaries for our home and for the kids when they were in the home. Many times I just didn’t get it in their eyes. (I probably didn’t get their “it” and now I wish I had known how to understand them and their world better. It wouldn’t have changed Gene and my boundaries for the kids, but it would have changed the way we communicated them and handled the situations.) But that didn’t change the reality that Gene and I were doing what we believed was best for the kids. They were too shortsighted and immature to understand; thus, their unhappiness and the strife in the relationship was all our fault.
But it wasn’t our fault and it’s not your fault either. Our kids will ride this emotional roller coaster for many years—some longer than others. As parents, we need to recognize this season and manage our expectations. Some days our kids will value our love, acceptance, and support. Soak in the beauty of those days.
More often it will seem like we are our kids’ worst enemy. But the truth is that in those days our kids are screaming to us I love you! I need you! I know you won’t leave me. After Katie’s tumultuous teen years and as she entered her even more tumultuous young adult years, God showed me this truth. Katie was cranky and difficult with me because she knew I wasn’t going anywhere. She felt safe with me. (Yes, she knew that with Gene too, but he didn’t let her rant like I did. Another discussion for another blog.)
Katie’s junior and high school years were hard on her—more than I knew at the time. I was her place to unload from the day and her security. She knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not making allowances for her poor behavior. But wise parents must understand their kids experience pressures we can’t imagine and they are not equipped to handle these pressures. They need us to stay strong in our love for them and firm in our boundaries for their protection and to help them mature.
Will you show your child your love is stronger than their defiance by enforcing the boundaries while maintaining your cool? Take encouragement in the truth it’s not your fault, but it is your job as the parent to be their strong, loving place of security.
[Wednesday I’ll discuss ways to help build a strong relationship with our kids and what to not do.]
For more ideas on how to show your child no matter what check out http://www.brendagarrison.com/love-no-matter-what.html.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.