You say that your child's happiness and mental health are your top concerns. So what do you do when your child is depressed and hurting? Maybe hurting himself? Of course you get help. There are therapists and counselors, in-patient and out-patient programs specifically for children and adolescents. I've been there, and made sure my child got help.... and... it turned out that it wasn't enough. In the end, the inescapable truth was that we parents needed help, too. You can get all the help in the world for your child and sometimes, unfortunately, it isn't enough. The biggest factor in tipping the scale to healing and happiness is parents doing this work, too. YOU ARE THE MISSING LINK.
When we first took our son to Hyde School, we were in a room full of parents who wanted the school to 'fix' what was wrong with their kid. We soon recognized that we needed some 'fixing' too. We knew that he couldn't come back to the same home, same parents, same dynamics. Hyde provided a parallel program for us, to help us improve our own lives, too, becoming better parents, better role models, and more fulfilled human beings. WE ARE THE MISSING LINK.
You see, in the context of being at this boarding school, the kids are living in a character culture. They are learning in classes, on the field, in the dorm, on stage, everywhere, what it means to be a person of integrity, giving your best effort, holding yourself and others accountable, taking healthy risks, and becoming leaders.
Now imagine that this child comes home to a family that doesn't speak this language or live the program, where everyone falls back into their old roles. They are all speaking different languages. There is no support for the growth and learning he has achieved. THE PARENTS ARE THE MISSING LINK.
We knew that our son had made choices for himself that landed him there; however, we also knew that, in spite of love and the best of intentions, we had a lot to do with the person he became. (If parents can take some of the credit for how well their children turn out, why shouldn't they take some responsibility for the less desirable outcomes?) While at Hyde I came to realize all the things I taught my children without even knowing it: how I saw the world and my place in it; how I responded to stress and conflict; what risks I was willing or unwilling to take; inconsistencies between my words and actions. I WAS THE MISSING LINK.
This was a big wake-up call. I may have started the work because of him, but I continued with it for myself. The work doesn't end. Every day has its challenges and I reflect and make course corrections regularly.
Take a good hard look at yourself. Can you identify with any of this? You are your child's most important teacher. Your kids are growing up in a world that requires them to be resilient and courageous in order to be safe, happy and successful. Are you teaching them by example? Do you have a double standard when you ask for their best effort and productive attitudes, always? Do you live what you ask them to do? YOU ARE THE MISSING LINK.
So, the next time you think your child is off track and needs help, I implore you to look within. Recognize that every one of us is a product of the people around us, and we can all use some tweaking. That's you, your kids, your parents. Being part of a family is a group effort. When one hurts, you all hurt. When one needs help, you all need help. DON'T BE A MISSING LINK. BE THE LINK THAT COMPLETES AND STRENGTHENS THE CHAIN.
Be well, be strong, be courageous parents!
~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.