Children can be reflective of you, but they are not you. Their choices will be different from those you would make, as it should be. The paths they are destined to walk are different from your own. As parents, we may instinctively want to shield them from making the mistakes we made. However, we might discover that in our attempts to do so, sometimes our children overreact to that guidance (no matter how well intentioned it may be) and end up doing something worse.
While this can be difficult to come to terms with as our children grow into their own people, with thoughts, desires, and beliefs of their own, it is no fault of theirs that they feel the pull to expand beyond what was “known” in our lives and discover the “unknown” for themselves. It’s what they were designed to do.
Our job as parents is not to script our child’s life for them, though of course, we will have plenty of hopes for them and a fierce need to protect and save them from pain. But while we can do our best to lovingly share the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gained from our experiences, and warn them of the natural consequences that can occur from certain choices or behaviors, we can’t change that they have to learn through their own unique life experiences.
Supporting our kids and providing unconditional love without enabling them can feel so hard to do at times. While every child is different, many kids are born with a brilliant fire within – which can be one of their most beautiful qualities – but this fire can lead to a brazen approach with an endless hunger for all that life has to offer, including plenty of impulsive decisions or colorful choices.
So where do we draw the line between supporting our kids in the aftermath of a messy situation and enabling them to keep making messes without consequences?
Here are five reminders to help you navigate sticky situations with your kids with firm grace:
1. Don’t label your child as bad. Even though they may create some difficult situations at times, labeling them as “bad” or tying their worth as a person to the situation or behavior is never the answer. Instead, help them realize the gravity of the situation before them without condemning them. You can use parallels or metaphors to help them understand or relate to what you’re feeling, “Imagine if a friend did x, y, z to you, how would that make you feel?” It might be a process to help them see where you’re coming from, but it helps to strengthen empathy and allows you to role model problem solving through curiosity rather than judgment.
2. Clearly communicate your boundaries. This is important to inform them on what you can provide to help them and what you can’t. Love and encouraging energy should never be on short supply, but your physical resources, time or attention in certain situations might be limited. Reminding them of this can eliminate confusion over expectations they may hold of how you can help them.
3. Offer love and encouragement. Whether in the face of a tough situation or not, frequently remind them that you know they are smart, strong, and capable. You can empower them to learn how to tackle their challenges by affirming your belief in them and choosing to see the best in them.
4. Provide resources, guidance, and directions when appropriate, but don’t do it for them. Whether you’re teaching your little one to clean up their room or your teenager is facing the aftermath of a mistake, there are many times where we can step in as parents to provide necessary information, relevant directions, or guidance, but fixing their problems for them is another story. We can lovingly nudge them in the direction of where to begin and support them along the way without enabling their apathy or feelings of disconnect to the problem at hand.
5. Give yourself (and your kids) a break. No one is perfect, we’re all just human. Remember to be compassionate about their mistakes, we all made plenty in our youth. You didn’t fail them because they are facing a sticky situation and this isn’t your fault. Role modeling harsh self-criticism or judgment won’t do either them or you any favors, nor will it effectively address or prevent the problem.
Parenting is an immensely rewarding journey, but separating yourself and your choices from the choices of your children is one of the most emotionally challenging parts. Give yourself grace when you don’t always “get it right”, none of us do. And if you’re not familiar with The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, here is a passage from the book that has continued to ring true over the last century. While society continues to innovate and evolve, the sacredness of the parent-child relationship remains, at its core, untouched by the progress of time.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
- Kahlil Gibran
Ankhasha Amenti is a Windbridge Certified Research Medium with the highly respected Windbridge Research Center (www.Windbridge.org). Her certification involved passing eight thorough screenings, testing and training steps during which her ability to report accurate and specific information about the deceased was scientifically tested under blinded conditions by Windbridge Institute Director of Research Julie Beischel, PhD. Her commitment is to give each of her clients a reading that provides comfort and validation that assures them their loved ones continue in spirit. In 2011 Ankhasha received the Annual Hospice Service Award from the Providence Hospice of Seattle. She lives a magical life in the misty forests of Washington State and can be reached by visiting her website www.Ankhasha.com.