Pastor Jason Clark preached: "think about the mothers who obsess about their children so much that they cannot make good choices for them; parents who won't let their children grow up and leave home. Children who are trying to please their parents, and parents who will never be pleased by them". BANG! These words hit me so hard...each and every one was delivered, in what seemed to be, slow motion. They made plenty of sense in the sermon, but even more sense when relating them back to my day-to-day experience of working with young people and the difficulties they face.
I need to make it clear, that I am not that parent; this is not because I have chosen not to be, but purely because I am a long way off having an adolescent child. It is not to say that these words won't be personified through me and my style of parenting in the future, but I sincerely hope that they will not be a foreshadow of things to come in my household. The reason these words had such a profound impact on me is due to the fact that I have sat opposite many adolescents (as a counsellor) who sob with their head in their hands, or shake from fear at the mere mention of what their parents might say in reaction to something which seems rather insignificant. Or how about those who use adjectives such as "hate" or "despise" to describe the very people who have secured their survival up and to that very point of being? The blindness or selective attention which us parents adopt when it comes to supporting our children can have detrimental effects; far beyond what we could ever imagine. I have never sat opposite a child and thought "man, this poor child; his/her parents are really awful". One cannot judge, yet I do often think how wrong some of us as parents get it from time to time. The smothering and over-powering nature of some households can literally drive the children to mental instability, often resulting in generalised anxiety disorders or affective disorders such as depression. This is in no way intentional; and if it were, I would hate to even entertain the thought. Yet, intentional or not, the reality is that many young people suffer at the hands of parents who are too involved; involved so much so, that obsession takes an invisible grip on them, robbing them of an objective view.
Whilst this is often argued as "love", it is sadly, far from it. Communication plays such a vital part in the success of relationships, yet why is it that communication seems to be the last option? "Okay now we will go and see a professional now that everything else has crumbled to the ground." What is the professional going to do? Wait for it...get you to talk and start communicating. Relationships are not self-sustaining, they require so much work, literally hours of talking openly, trying to discover others through open communication. If it is (seemingly) so simple, why is it that children have come to people like myself over the past several years with the desperate words: they just won't listen to me...?
I'm not claiming to know the answer, hey, I'm not even excluding myself from the possibility of being like that with my daughter one day. There are far more experienced parents out there who probably don't need to hear opinions like this from a novice, but I had to write; the words of Pastor Clark which pricked my ears to attention so urgently this past week could not be ignored. I desperately hope that we listen to our children in a way that allows us to maintain a level of authority over them, yet grants them the power to feel listened to, in a way that tells them: "hey, you, and what you have to say, matters to me".