Dear Dr. Allen: Changing your parental mindset
For many parents, their difficult childhoods, life experiences and the news they hear in the world create a fearful perspective in the guidance of their kids. It is common to believe things we are afraid of will become a reality.
It is good to learn from our past experiences. However, just because something happened to parents, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to us or to their kids. We can be aware of the potential reality of a bad thing reoccurring but it isn’t healthy to act as if it will happen again.
You likely learned your best life lessons from going through trying times. We do grow the most from going through life stressors or as some call them, trials and tribulations.
We certainly don’t seek these out. However, we know they will come our way and ours kids’ way.
While we need to protect our kids as much as we can from bad things happening to them, we can’t prevent difficult life experiences from coming into their lives.
The past few years have shown that parents overly prioritizing achievement can lead to mental health problems in their children. These include depression, anxiety and suicidality.
The character of a person has often been a secondary emphasis of parents who are focused on achievement.
Personally, while I wanted my kids to make their best effort to do school work, their character was the number one goal. I felt if our kids were honest, had integrity and cared about other people in their world they would be fine as adults.
Every employer is looking for workers who are trustworthy, conscientious and can work on a team.
We also know that good character qualities develop while going through difficult times, which become life lessons.
What I am suggesting to parents is don’t be so afraid of your kids’ lives. Don’t believe bad experiences from your life will happen again in your kids lives. Try not to guide your parenting and kids lives based upon what you are afraid of.
Instead, seek to embrace life and i’s challenges. Allow your children to have a view that they can be difference makers and influence positive change in their world. They don’t have to be afraid of the world but instead should be smart enough to know the difference between what is genuine and what is misleading.
Their time at home with us needs to be a time of learning life lessons. These character traits only develop by keeping communication open when going through the stressors of life together.
I am not saying don’t hug, kiss and tell your kid you love them (at least not in front of their friends!). But be more of a life partner seeking to walk alongside them. Be reflective as you are aware of their internal mental and emotional state. This is their challenge to overcome. Realize there are good character traits that are being formed in them right now. Traits such as perseverance, self control and learning to manage difficult emotions, time management, accountability and responsibility.
Remind yourself, it’s their life not yours. Allow them to fully take ownership of their schedules and activities. Support them as they learn from the mistakes and disappointments that will come from peers and adults in their lives.
Hopefully, as the current lifestyle restrictions are loosened they will feel freer and have more opportunity to make good decisions.
We need to hold on to the belief that what we put into our kids, as they are growing up, will sustain them.
Dr. Greg Allen is a Licensed Therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates. (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U, a non-profit that seeks to guide youth towards their life purpose and thereby reduce risky lifestyles. (freedomcommunity.com). His new non-profit Hearts Respond, will focus on supporting LA Harbor families in social-emotional areas. (heartsrespond.com). PEN