My Facebook and my email inbox are full of stories of parents sending their kids off to school this week--from kindergarten through college. Often, it's with a lot of pride and equal amounts of tears. But there are all sorts of less dramatic and daily ways that we need to let our kids go: by loosening the reins, allowing them to make their own mistakes, and facing the consequences from the world rather than from us. If we want our kids to soar, sometimes we also have to let them fall. But as a friend just said to me: It's so damn hard, isn't it? Continue on for some suggestions of how to make it easier, or if not easier, then at least to feel more effective and purposeful. Here goes!
When your child is having trouble, it might make you feel like you need to just sit back and let the experts take over. You need to listen to everything they tell you at the school, and take all the advice from therapists. Maybe you feel like your child's issues are somehow your fault, and that you just have to turn over your power to other people. Remember, your child needs you now more than ever. So it's important to empower yourself. You are your child's best observer and greatest advocate.
Are you looking for more emotional support? More connection? More intimacy? More personal space? More expressions of concern, validation, love? The first step to getting is knowing; the second step is asking (or insisting.) My last blog post was How to Know What You Need in Relationships, and now it's time for Step 2.
As a therapist, I see a lot of couples who are working on their relationships. I also see a lot of individuals who are unhappy in their relationships but don't know where to start to improve them. Are they the problem? Is it their partners? Or is it the dynamics between them? Perhaps all of the above? Generally, a good place to start is in recognizing your own needs. If you were raised in a home where your needs were invalidated or chronically unmet, this can be a very daunting task. So here are some questions to ask yourself.
Let me just say, this isn't going to be a hearts-and-flowers sugarcoated sort of a blog. The fact is, we're living in deeply troubled times. Every day it seems like we're hearing about a new terrorist attack somewhere in the world and another shooting in our own country; the Republican presidential nominee tells us we're unsafe and only he can fix it but meanwhile, the Democrats are getting hacked left and right. Yep, these are troubling times. And I'm not one for false uplift. But I am a believer in searching for optimism and locating your sources of hope as a way to combat mental health symptoms. So here are some true reasons for optimism.
I recently wrote about emotional abuse, and how often people think of it as name-calling or explicit cruelty, when really, it might be about someone controlling you with silent disapproval. It's when someone causes you to feel you can never be good enough. That ties into my topic today. Are you in a relationship but often feel completely alone? Your partner might be emotionally withholding.
What with July 4th so recently behind us, I've been thinking a lot about what freedom means. From a therapeutic perspective, it involves personal agency--to have the space to figure out what you really think and feel, and for the process to be respected. You don't need to always know; you need to be surrounded by people who want you to find out, and support you in that. Does that describe your partner? If not, read on.
I just read the fantastic book "Girls & Sex" by Peggy Orenstein. What I love is that while it paints a somewhat dire picture of the landscape for teen (and even pre-teen girls), not to mention young adults, it's not just about diagnosing the problem; there's a prescription. You can help your daughters navigate that landscape, but it involves talking to them differently than you might have considered before. It means that instead of just talking about the risks of sex, we have to talk honestly about rewards, which is probably far more uncomfortable but incredibly valuable. So here are some ideas for how to have those talks. And remember, even if you've been approaching it differently, it's never too late to try something new.