The Ups, Downs and In-betweens of ……..
This is a blog written by a variety of people living and parenting in Gloucestershire today and sharing the ups downs and in-betweens of real family life.
……. a Dad Failing Forward.
As parents of two late teenage children it can be a very rewarding, and also challenging, time. Their reliance upon us has reduced from a day to day, minute by minute perspective and our kids are quite rightly ‘striking out’ in their own directions. Positively, this brings us greater freedom as they can look after themselves and be much more autonomous about their decisions. It’s also fantastic to see their strengths and talents becoming more evident, with glimpses of their future potential and some great ‘adult’ conversations too!
The difficult part is when they ‘strike out’ in ways that don’t meet our approval! Where should we draw the line between differences of perspective, personality or belief (all of which are a product of individuality) and issues of unacceptable or unsafe behaviour that impact the whole family or will potentially damage the child concerned?
I’m talking about things like relationships, language, self-centeredness, drinking, smoking, mood swings, driving, schoolwork, untidiness etc. etc. These are tricky issues to navigate whilst trying to maintain a healthy relationship but without feeling like a ’doormat’ by avoiding issues to keep the peace.
Over the years, we’ve tried, at various times, taking a harder line, softer line, middle line, setting boundaries, writing them down, communicating verbally and reinforcing as well as trying to ‘be there’ in both good and bad times. There’s certainly no right or wrong way and this is incredibly emotionally draining – particularly when you’re dealing with your own challenges at work, or other aspects of life too. Please can someone give me the manual or policy I’m meant to follow!!
When things are difficult this can cause real self-doubt and if unchecked can be incredibly destructive. One key thing I’ve realised is the importance of sharing these realities with trusted friends. This is particularly helpful as it’s clear that I’m not alone in feeling this way! Hearing stories from others who have walked a difficult path with their kids and emerged with positively restored relationships is so encouraging, particularly as it’s frequently the outcome!
Through it all I think our conclusion is that we need to allow our kids the ‘freedom to fail.’ So, we’ve reached a place of setting some fundamental boundaries – these revolve around school, money, house rules and attitudes in our home but have reigned back ‘enforcing’ other aspects where we have a different perspective on lifestyle choices. Alongside this we are trying to maintain positive conversations and time together so it’s not always the difficult stuff that defines our relationships!