I want to let you in on a little secret we therapists know.
Everyone has challenges
Everyone has total breakdowns from time to time.
Yes, even therapists.
Yet we all spend lots and lots of energy trying to avoid mistakes, protect our children from failure and pain all for naught. Because hard stuff happens.
But then when things do break down, we spend lot and lots of time trying to cover up, deny, show a happy face to the rest of the world. It’s exhausting and doesn’t serve any of us well.
On Being Human
I often say, “It’s hard to be human.”
This is because we are fallible and imperfect. And that imperfection annoys and frustrates us.
I also often say, “I am the walking incarnation of imperfection.”
Because I am human and, therefore, inherently imperfect. But I don’t let it annoy me. I just accept imperfection is what it is.
So– I am imperfect. You are imperfect. Our children are imperfect.
Our children have challenges. These are not to be denied, hidden or considered shameful.
Overcoming challenge makes us stronger, more resilient, aware of our strengths in the face of our difficulties.
Failure helps us know we are tougher than we think, because we can fail, get up and start again. Failure doesn’t mean we are bad, broken or worthless. Failure makes us human, let’s us flex our self-awareness muscles, and gives us a way to know when we are succeeding.
Breakdowns give us an outlet for intolerable pain. Without a breakdown, we suffer silently and over a long time. Sometimes wailing it out gives us a big outlet so we can move on more quickly. The catharsis can give us peace.
What does all this have to do with parenting?
Please consider this: When we focus solely on our child’s academic or other achievements and give short shrift to their emotional growth, where does this leave them as young adults?
If a child never failed or never had to grapple with a problem without adult help, how will they navigate a difficult college class, boss, or relationship when we are not their to moderate for them?
When you think about it, the emotional growth matters more than their academic growth as they leave school and into adult life. And in fact, research shows that most successful adults have high EQs (emotional intelligence) but don’t necessarily have to have higher than average IQs.
The Struggle IS REAL
Our jobs as parents isn’t to protect our children from all pain and struggle.
Our jobs as parents is to help our children navigate ups and downs, good times and bad, pain and joy.
We need to allow them to develop strong EQ and grow emotionally.
How do you do that?
Let your child struggle and learn how to move forward.
Let your child fail and learn where they made mistakes and develop their own way to recover and start again.
Let your child break down and unburden their pain in one big dramatic whoosh.
Support them by validating their pain, tolerating their uncomfortable struggle, being a sounding board, rather than a provider of the solution.
Rather than cover up the hard stuff, celebrate the risks your child took, the grace they used when things got hard, the success in recovering from a really difficult time.
And, always remember, everyone of us faces hard stuff and things have a way of working out.