Written by Rosemary Strembicki
When Jan and I meet with parents, our conversation often includes information on how to support our children throughout their development and how to recognize the influence of our own history and stumbling blocks. As parents, we have the greatest influence on our children, but what happens if they experience the world in a way we just can't understand or if they thrive on the social scene when we crave quiet time with just family and our closest friends? What if we discover that our child has the soul of an artist when we're a facts and figures kind of parent or we have a quiet, studious child when we've been a star athlete most of our life?
Understanding and accepting our children for who they are is just the first step in helping them grow into their full potential. The second step is recognizing when we need help and finding the resources to provide what we can't.
It's so easy to feel like a failure the first time we hear those words, "You just don't understand!" Especially when it's true! We fondly remember the early days when we were in charge; making every decision even if we weren't sure if it was the right one. Or maybe it's been a struggle since the first day with a baby that was fussy and always fighting to be in control. The one who never ate what we cooked, slept through the night or toilet trained until he was almost 4. The one who just doesn't seem to fit into the family.
What's a parent to do?
Sometimes, we just have to let go. Let go of all the ideas of what we thought parenting was going to be like and take a good look at who our child is. What does she love, what is he good at, who does he admire? Probably someone totally different than you and it's hard not to take it personally. But I bet you can find someone in your community, school or religious community that represents your values but lives a life more in tune with your child's than your own. Maybe it's the music teacher who really understands your child's love of music or the coach that can keep him active enough to meet his need for competition. Or, maybe it's the neighbor who collects model trains and can fix just about anything or your friend in church that dresses in the latest fashion.
The key is finding someone who shares your family values, the basic tenants of how you choose to live your life. My daughter found a friend who shares her love of fashion, family and having fun and they're able to maintain a close friendship even though they have different religious and political beliefs. We're all different and we all make different choices in our lives, but our common ground can provide support and take us in directions that we never considered. Different relationships meet different needs and not everyone can bring out the best in each of us. Helping our children find the right fit for the different aspects of their personality and gifts is a way of offering support that's not always easy for us to give.
The role of parent shifts as our children grow, but we always remain parents and all children crave the love and acceptance of their parents, no matter what they've experienced growing up. Letting others close to our children is a risk, but if we make an effort to know their friends, mentors and heroes, we can monitor their interactions and more fully learn who our children are in order to help them achieve their goals. Stepping back yet staying involved can be pretty tricky and open communication is vital.
So, as overused as the phrase is, it really does take a village to raise our children. We can provide the structure and model the life we wish for them but sometimes, they choose a different road. Wouldn't it be nice to help them find the travelers who will take them where they want to go, yet keep them close enough to home to remain a part of our lives?
You can contact Rosemary at http://www.aplacetoturnto.org