From Dr. Jane's Notebook
As happy as one's unhappiest child?
There was a time when the word on the street was that you only had to worry about kids
for the first 18 years. (Woman in labor: "Doctor, Doctor, How long will the pain
last?" Doctor: "Oh, about 18 years.")
As it turns out, you never stop worrying!! Whats more, I just found out the
latest in parental maxims: You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child. Who knew?
- When kids first leave their parents nest its hard for both to let go. When
parents and their children maintain close relationships it is difficult to say good-bye.
As parents we know that we must encourage our kids to find their way to independence but
we are also accustomed to supporting them every step of the way. Our children also know
that it is time to fly on their own. Both parents and kids know that flying on their own
is a necessary but challenging task.
- Parents and children maintain interdependent relationships. When kids start
moving out of the house, they want our help and they dont want our help. Thus
knowing how much to help becomes tricky business. Parents feel guilty if they help too
little but helping too much can bring out the worst in your child. Soon even the most
loving relationships can become riddled with anger. In this case, a little anger actually
helps kids and parents to gather their courage.
- Maintaining the familys safety net is a full time job. It is one thing for
parents to supervise their childrens lives when they live on the premises but quite
another to try and manage our childrens lives long-distance. It is virtually
impossible for anyone to maintain such a balancing act. Slowly the reality sets in that
our children will either sink or swim on their own. This is a time when many of the rules
must change. As we give up our illusion of control, they begin to find ways to survive on
- Often, the situation is hopeless but not serious. The initial months and years
often include bouts of homesickness, school failure, despondency, and calls for help. As
parents, it is all too easy to hear the battle cry and rush in to rescue our child. But
beware that simply moving the baby bird back home to the nest is not the best long term
solution. When we encourage our children to accept their shortcomings, they begin to
resent us for doubting their ability to succeed. By collaborating with their feelings of
weakness, the pathetic little baby bird, rescued and brought back home, soon becomes the
vulture who treats its parents like prey. So while it is important to be supportive and
steer our children through necessary detours in order to stay the course, it is
fool-hearty to think that our children will remain helpless.
Throughout the child-rearing process the job of parent continually changes. Parents
must now learn the fine art of helping enough but not too much. Just like when our kids
first learned to walk, they are bound to stumble and fall. Parents can either pick their
children up and carry them forever, or encourage them to draw upon their own resources. We
must be confident that they will find their own sense of balance. A little bit of help and
a little bit of sympathy go a long way. When we provide a sympathetic ear, our children
miraculously discover their own answers to problems. As you slowly step back out of the
way, you can actually watch them grow!
ęCopyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Family Relationships
Return to Table of Contents