My mother taught me to "never say never," as she warned me against judging others. From a young age, I remember her telling me that you just don't know what life will challenge you with, so don't be quick to judge.
I've mostly heeded her words particularly when it has come to parenting. I know that parenting isn't an easy road, and that parents are met with many challenges along the way--challenges most of us never even dream of.
That being said, I did find myself researching a number of young adult and child issues over vacation--troubling issues that I wondered about, and I did find a thread of missing parents as the cause, in part--parents who appeared to spend quite a bit of time and money on their own needs rather than attending to their children's needs. It seemed that in some of these cases, parents who were met with BIG challenges, chose to escape and blame rather than face the challenge and look for positive ways to deal with the issues.
As I thought about these issues, some of which resulted in heinous crimes, I looked for nuggets of wisdom that might help parents embrace the challenges rather than deny or further deepen the trouble.
Own the Issue
In many cases, parents deny their children's troubling issues. That's a big step in the wrong direction. Whether it's addiction, learning challenges, illness, isolation, unhappiness or any other child issues, parents have to face the issues rather than deny the issues. It's important to get to know your child as much as possible and that includes your child's challenges.
Seek the Support of Others
It seemed that some parents suffered from troubled relationships, their own personal health problems, lack of friends, or misunderstandings. As I considered the cases I studied, I realized that it's critical that parents facing problems, find support groups of others who face similar challenges. There is strength and knowledge in numbers, and when a group of people facing similar challenges get together they can help one another.
Don't Add to the Problem
Parents sometimes add to a child's issue. For example if addiction is an issue, parents might add to it by having lots of parties that include drugs or alcohol--that only exacerbates a child's issue. Also if a child's issues relate to bad behavior, sometimes parents aren't present to monitor and support needed change. Some parents are more interested their own wealth and happiness than that of their children's, and then dedicate time to themselves rather than giving their children the time they need and deserve. To parent well, parents have to be present for their children, and they have to change their own behavior in order to support those children.
Think strategically and prioritize. Parents whose children face big challenges have to research, take care of themselves, and take care of their children too. This requires reading, research, and prioritizing. Parents have to take the long view of what's most important and prioritize as they move in a good direction that will support their family.
Love your Children
I've seen parents who have children that disappoint them. These parents have a difficult time loving their children because they do not have the children they hoped for. They don't realize that children bring us on journeys we would never expect, they are their own people and don't truly belong to us. Parents who can't love their children need help. Those parents have to go to counseling and figure out why they can't love their own children. This usually has its roots in the parents' own upbringing or psychological profile. Parents who don't love their children set their children up for BIG problems.
No parent is perfect and no child is perfect. It's a challenging road to parent and be parented, but there are some parents who are too selfish, damaged, or unaware to parent well. It's important to the safety and welfare of our communities, that all parents do what they can to take good care of their children. As community members, we can do our part by creating communities that support good parenting. Environmentally we can make sure that our communities are safe and include parks, playgrounds, bike trails, and nature spaces to support positive family time. Program-wise we can support good prenatal and birthing supports, preschool programs, schools, and recreational programs too. Work places can promote events, schedules, and expectations that support good parenting as well.
Teaching children well is the job of educators and it is the job of parents and the community too. What would you add to this post? How can you support these efforts?