A plea to parents; raising kids takes a village.
I have been a parent for almost 17 years. When I have found myself in the thick of some of the really hard stuff with my kid, I have felt alone. The tears, the tantrums, the hurt, the hormones, the loss, frenemies, and mental and emotional exhaustion can all be isolating. I do not feel alone in the sense that my spouse is not helpful and or a partner, he is more than hands-on and in the thick of it alongside me, and I am so grateful for that. I feel alone when I sit and wonder, are we the only parents going through this? Is there anyone in my circle I can talk to that can relate?
I know we are not. I read countless stories and hear tales from parents fighting the good fight that sometimes occurs while raising teens and fumbling through developmental phases. But, when it is you, and it is your kid, it can feel like no one outside gets it. For some reason, especially when raising teens, parents seem to internalize and hide the reality of how hard it truly can be.
My plea to other parents is this; reach out. We are in this together because we are all connected. Even when the thought of saying out loud that you are struggling seems humiliating or embarrassing, share your story with someone.
Even when the burden is heavy, share. Even when you have to speak up to a parent and reveal something they may not be able to see about their own child is doing, share. But, more importantly, when someone decides to share something with you about your child, be open to a new perspective, be the advocate for your child and remember, kids make mistakes. Children are ever-evolving. As they grow and learn, it is our job to recognize that and assist them accordingly. We must practice listening to each other, for that is where peace and resolutions reside.
The old saying, “It takes a village…” could not be more true. Providing proper education, setting life goals and expectations for being a part of our society are necessary for raising children. But, what about the inner working of how our parenting tribes function? What about the undercurrent of competition amongst parents? What happened to the solidarity we show one another when our kids are small? Why does it suddenly disappear in the teen years?
We all have a parenting style we develop over time, and it is a fact no child is exactly the same. While children vary in their needs, we, too, have to pivot and evolve in our parenting. Conflicts arise when children begin school, and friend groups expand, exposing us to new parents and styles. Sometimes our style does not jam with another parent’s. It is not to say one is adamantly right or one is absolutely wrong, but working together to meet in the middle is what is key. It is about the kids, after all, right?
Kids are becoming anxious and depressed at alarming rates in this country. Checking in regularly with our kids is not a casual suggestion. It is a daily necessary step in staying connected and alert to any changes in your child. When kids go too long without those check-ins, behavior, and signs of distress can creep in unnoticed. When it comes to helping our kids with mental health, it takes a village.
My plea to parents is this: raising kids takes a village, and we need all hands on deck. We are light years ahead in awareness of mental health and bullying than our parents or grandparents were, but the work continues. We need more parents creating networks of support for each other. I have at times had to let go of ego and accept when my kid has done something that was not in alignment with how I have taught my children. Parents need to have hard conversations with each other so we can set an example of exercising open, productive communication as a lifelong tool for our kids.
I have dealt with and seen some of the more hurtful and demoralizing behaviors from other kids. From body-shaming, exclusion, and betrayal, some of these kids think these things gain them something in their circle of friends. I can’t help but think that if more parents were checking in and we all had eyes and ears open, we could bring a huge part of that behavior to an end. These kids are adults in training: learning and growing as we are, and I, for one, strive to put accountable and considerate adults out into the world, but it is not just about what I do; each of us needs to do the work.