So what do we do when our wishes and their wishes collide? To clarify this model let us look at some examples which parents and children might encounter. Let us say that a family is considering a move from a small town to a farm. The father grew up on a farm and wants to return to his rural roots. An eight-year-old girl learns of the move when she overhears a conversation her parents are having when she is supposed to be sleeping. The family moves over the summer and the little girl begins the third grade at a new school in the fall. She has to meet new friends and new teachers and she cries every day on the bus on the way to school.
In another family, considering a move to a large urban area, the father tells the older children of the possible move in a family meeting. The nine-year-old boy gives a cheer and the six-year-old girl bursts into tears. The father realizes that he has erred by not allowing the children to have input before making the final decision. He tells the little girl that she can have a chance to think it over before they decide. He discusses the idea with her over the next few days and she starts to be more positive about the idea. Realistically both of the families will move but the reactions of the children will be quite different based on two very different approaches. The first method does not acknowledge the children as having feelings or opinions while the second takes into account the impassioned reaction of a six-year-old girl.
We found that this model—one in which every person has a voice–does much to prevent conflict and rebellion. It requires four elements that we have named Commitment, Connection, Balance and Belief and they are described in detail in our book Family Entanglement. I want to define them briefly here and apply them to the two parenting situations that I have described. First I will talk about commitment. It is the fulcrum of the see saw, the element around which everything revolves. It is our promise to our children that they will never face the deepest of all human anxieties—parental abandonment. It is the collective human dread that has no equal. It is the astronaut, whose tether to the mother ship is cut, sending him hurtling out into endless space, loneliness, and nonexistence.
From the information I have, I think that commitment was present in both of the family situations I have described. That is, both sets of parents were engaged with the children until they were grown. They provided physical and financial support. We have found though that while commitment is essential it is not enough.