I can only imagine the many fears a parent goes through as they watch their children grow up.
Does my child have the right friends?
Is my child hiding something from me?
Has my child been bullied?
Has my child had a sexual encounter?
Will my child get into things I dread the most: drugs, alcohol and suchlike?
Why is my child rude to me?
Why am I shut-out from my child’s world?
I can only speculate on the number of questions that might go through a parent’s mind. I’m not a parent, having chosen to remain child-free, but I am a teacher. In this role my interactions with children are very different. As a middle and high school teacher, I see them differently from the way you do. So let me tell you from that perspective what I think may contribute towards a healthy relationship with your child.
1. Reflect on the labels you give them and their friends. Labels will only reinforce a behavior you want gone. Try using language free of labels. Try to find a way to show them that you see where certain behaviors are coming from. Give your child some validation. By this I do not mean that you should be all accepting of any type of behavior shown, but rather acknowledge that it has a cause that your child might be unable to work through.
2. If you feel that your child may be hiding things from you, you are absolutely right. Your child will not make you privy to all the things in their life. You may get the outline, a bit here and a bit there. Don’t force things out of them either through anger or through a very sugary ‘You can tell me anything’. Be available though. Your child knows if you are emotionally available to them or not. Reflect on the first point I made to see if are emotionally available to them.
3. You know this already, but do not live your dreams through them. They are individuals from the moment they are born. They are not your second chance at anything.
4. Think about your unconscious stereotypes viz gender, sexuality, family, roles and responsibilities and work on ridding yourself of them. Your child lives in a very different world from the one you grew up in. Help them become compassionate, ethical children who are critical thinkers and have an opinion that is based on sound logic.
5. You do not have to be perfect all the time, show them you too can be vulnerable.
6. Lastly, always be available in whichever way you are comfortable: a hug, a reassurance that you are a beacon if their world is troubled, a note slipped where only they can find it, laugh and play a game together. It will mean the world to them.
Yasmine Claire holds a Masters in Science – Psychology.
She is the Head of Learning Support at Stonehill International School and has over 13 years of teaching experience in Psychology and Theory of Knowledge.
Yasmine lives in Bangalore, India.