You sacrifice everything to be here. To provide a safe and secure home where your family can grow and succeed. You don’t know why they don’t understand that. You can’t fathom why they just want to undo everything that took you so long and you worked so hard to create for your family to be American. It’s incomprehensible to you that by doing what you did that your children would be so different, act so different, speak so different from what you were like, from how you were when you were their age.
Our children may appear to look like us but in fact, can be very different from us. Of course, like all concerned parents, we want the best for them. Even if they don’t want the best for themselves. But where is the line between being a protective and concerned parent? When does it become that we don’t allow them to live their own lives and learn from their own mistakes?
You think if you just send them back home for a while, they’ll learn. But they don’t. They just get more adept at hiding things from you. And you feel the distance grows and grows between you and them. You want to connect with them but they always push you away feeling embarrassed that you are just too foreign.
This is the most painful time of being a parent. Your children are old enough to make their own decisions. Yet, still far too young to bear the consequences of those decisions alone. What do you do in these moments? How do you protect your family?
Relationships with our children are not simple. There are a lot of layers we have to think about when reflecting on our relationships with them. Unlike how we grew up with our parents, our children have simultaneously grown up with multiple identities. The one that they were raised in and the one they have to adapt to outside your home. You had to do this too. However, it’s different having to code-switch as an adult than when you’re a child still forming your identity.
You may have never allowed your children to sleep at a friend’s house because you may have never done that as a child. Yet, they grew up watching their friends have sleepovers and feeling left out. Not everyone grows up with a global perspective. Children can be cruel, their friends may not understand and they may have lost a few for being “different.”
Your children are NOT you
Your children came from you but they are not you. They have had some experiences that you have had and in this country, they have had some experiences that you haven’t had. They were raised with morals and values that you instilled in them. At some point, you need to be able to trust that they can maneuver the world on their own.
Demeaning your children for being different or making choices that you wouldn’t have made is not going to make you closer to them. There is a time to set those hard limits and there is a time, especially as they get older, to open up a conversation with them. Get to know your children and what they like. Talk to them about their friendships and create a safe environment for them to open up about their romantic relationships. Constantly castigating them will not create this openness and will further shut them down from talking to you.
When you have a disagreement with your children, try to understand their point of view. Try to familiarize yourself with what pressures they may feel like they are under. When we try to empathize with our children, it becomes easier to guide them. In addition, they become more open to our assistance.
Your children don’t owe you anything
Your children as they reach adulthood are allowed to make their own decisions on what they want to do for work and who they want to marry. They should also not be made to feel like your personal retirement fund.
Conversely, once your children are on their own or at least have reached adulthood, you are not their personal bank account.
You can say no to one another, set boundaries and limits with one another without having to cut off the relationship entirely. It’s ok to agree to disagree with your children.
How to reach out
Making time for one another and how we make the intention to be in one another’s lives means so much. In a world, where we are constantly allowing ourselves to be controlled by our devices. Make time to spend with your children and make the most of it. They may not let you know, but they will remember the quality time they had with you for the rest of their lives. When they speak of their childhood to their children, they will speak of these moments.
Its easier to have these moments when our children are young but we still need to create a habit for ourselves to reach out even if it is not reciprocated. It will hurt when your older children may not want to spend time with you. Don’t punish them for this. Communicate with them that you feel the need to connect and the reasoning behind it. Let them know that you are there for them. In addition, guide them in the importance of keeping in contact and their relationship with you.
Stand back and let them come forward
Now, you have reached out. You did not call them every 5 to 10 minutes to get them to pick up. You did not guilt trip them in any way. Let them come to you. In time, they will reach out. For those who are parents of older children who may have left the house, know that this is your time to focus on you. You gave so many years of your life to be a caretaker and giving to your child. Now, it’s your time to take care of you.
And By the Way!
My name is Tara. I am a licensed clinical social worker who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you are interested in talking more, you can schedule a free 15 consultation with me, click here!