It is really hard to watch a friend, lover, loved one or child go through difficult things. As humans who love, we want to keep our people safe, take the hurt away, and stop it. We want to give them all the answers they could possibly need, the supports that might come in handy, the advice that we think is so well worth it and generally make it a whole lot easier. Give them a good run. And yet, in doing these things, we are, in reality, robbing them of the opportunity to grow and develop resilience and grit; indeed, we could be stunting their becoming.
When things go wrong in a young person’s life, by way of the choices that they are making, we jump to it being our fault in some way. Sometimes when things go a little sideways, we immediately judge ourselves. What did I miss? Where did I go wrong? Did I not do enough? Did I not give them the help they needed? This is a terrible place for any parent, caregiver or educator to find themselves in so… what if we didn’t jump to us and tried instead looking from a different viewpoint?
I read something recently that hit me and made me think. It went something like this – Sometimes, all of the things your child is doing or not doing is not your fault. It is not a result of your shitty parenting. Maybe you did everything right. Supported them in all the ways that they needed. Maybe, just maybe, the stuff that is not going right is because they need to go through some stuff to become the person they are meant to be. And, all of your helping, worrying and stressing is entirely unhelpful because this stuff is an important part of their journey.
For years I have thought it is OK for me to go through stuff because I know I can handle it. I have been thinking they can’t handle it, so I will do everything possible to make it easier. Here’s the kicker, though, I can handle it because I went through it! And, if I think it is important for them to be able to handle things, which I do, then they, too, must go through some stuff. This is where the hard part comes in; to go through stuff means to make decisions and then work with the consequences that arise from said decisions. Sometimes the results will be great, and other times not; they have to figure it out. That doesn’t mean we abandon them, no! We just don’t take over.
I am certain that any adult reading this can connect with the difficult stuff that they went through. The times when you questioned, “Why me?”, “Why now?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”. Perhaps it was a failed exam that you chose not to study for, the loss of a friend through an argument about nothing, or even choosing to lie and then being caught in that lie. It would have been hard. Life can be hard, but the only way to live is to do it: the good, the bad and the ugly. If your young person seems to be going a little sideways, support them, but don’t save them from the hard yards. This might be some of their stuff. Love them, listen to them, advise them but don’t do life for them. They will grow, learn, become more aware and resilient, perhaps even more reflective, and they will be able to handle it. Whatever it is.
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