Lately I have been dialoguing with my daughter (and others) about parenting. Being a very conscientious parent she finds herself wanting to safeguard her children's every move. We talked about how the earliest years are the time for setting the stage for later – this is the time to teach and model the Universal Principles which will equip them for later years when they are too grown for us to physically pick them up and remove them from harms way. When they are little it's appropriate to make their choices for them and govern them closely to keep them safe. We seem to forget however that our job, as parents, is to teach them to be independent, in thought and deed. Once they've reached adolescence, if we haven't instilled whatever morales and principles we want in their young psyches, chances are it's not going to happen. By that time their mental stage is set and learning will have to come some other (often more painful) way. The general rule is that as the child ages – for every year older, the parent's job is to take another step back – moving away from control and more into a role of mentor/advisor. But giving up control over our children can be a real challenge nonetheless.
Our children are SO precious and we SO want them to be okay. It was one of the more difficult things for me, as a parent, to watch my children walk into situations I could not prevent knowing that, chances are, they would come away wounded. And yet, wounding is inevitable.
Who among us has gotten through life unscathed? I have come to believe that being “scathed” by life is actually part of the overall design of things. We're not SUPPOSED to get through it without being wounded!
As parents, we can become so obsessed in protecting our children from being wounded that WE become their wounders! How many times have you seen, or even been, a parent who, in trying to keep a child safe, actually acted in ways that made things worse?
We cannot truly control our children. They will be attracted to situations and people in their lives that we do not approve of and that may bring them great heartache. It is a challenge, in such difficult moments, to remember that these situations have come to teach our children more about themselves. How? Because our children, like us, are attracted to people and situations that will externally manifest the way they unconsciously treat themselves. In this way they become aware of how they really feel about themselves.
I understand that as parents, we are afraid for our childern … afraid they will see and learn things from troubled peers that we don't agree with. We are afraid they will be exposed and influenced by “evil” or that they will engage in dangerous substances or activities. The truth is – we cannot keep them from danger forever. Life will inevitably “find” them. The more we try to intervene, manipulate their environment or control them, the higher the odds that we will end up alienating them, we could even end up with a son or daughter who has gone so far “underground” that we feel we don't know them at all.
As parents, our task is to stay approachable. It helps to remind ourselves that these precious loved ones are in bigger, more capable hands than our own. Visualize them in a bubble of high frequency protection. Respect their choices, even when you don't agree, and let the consequences that come through their choices be their own (and not a personal affront – their behavior is not about you) Help them connect the painful consequences in their life to the choices they made so they can grow and choose differently next time – rather than judging them for “dumb decisions”. Help them understand that making “poor” decisions is something we all do sometimes – that it's part of the growing up process that brings maturation and wisdom through experience. With this attitude, we are able to process more openly with our children about their life experiences rather than ending up being seen as the “enemy”.
Our job is to support our children's learning process – not prevent them from having pain. We simply cannot.
We learn to get out of their way … not disappear, mind you, but to walk beside them as confidante and non-judgmental advisors. We learn to listen and understand … rather than judge and harshly reprimand. We remind ourselves that our children must need the experiences they are having … because they are the experiences they are having.
One other thing … these are not only growing opportunities for our children but for us as well. By listening to the stories that come up in our own mind in dealing with our children we can locate and follow our own stressful reactions inward and investigate the painful stories that we are believing – and in that way, come into greater forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves. Being a parent is an awesome path to better understanding.