Everyday I hear stories about young people in trouble, maybe it’s drug use, suspension from school, violent behavior, staggering numbers of sexually transmitted diseases, a general lack of motivation…this appears to be happening within families all around the country. We tend to want to point fingers and say it’s the school’s fault, or it’s peer pressure, or the ever-popular scapegoat…the influence of both social and mass media.
As I have become a keen observer in my own life, and in the lives of those around me (including many family and friends who are in the midst of child rearing), I have come to the conclusion we cannot afford to look outward any longer for the condition our family is in.
You see, there will always be new drugs for kids to try, new ways to cheat on school exams, video games that may influence the behavior of teens, music lyrics and television programming that will continue to push the envelope on what is morally appropriate.
The time is now to look no further than behind our own front door to begin to understand why our children might make choices to participate in behavior which could hurt them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I believe this is happening because there is a lack of true connection between parents and their children.
How can this be? We provide them with the best clothes, schools, cars, latest electronic gadgets…we run them to and from every possible activity to enrich their life! And yet if you really begin to observe what our children are saying (or, not saying, because they are zoned out in front of a screen many hours a day) you will understand they often feel empty. And when our children feel empty and disconnected they will seek ways to connect, or to cover up their anxiety, loneliness, or low self-esteem.
I know this because it happened in my own home.
My oldest son, Nick, came into my life just after I finished my freshman year in college. Choosing to raise him as a single mother meant having to leave my family home. Anxious but determined, I felt I could be a mother because I’d had what I thought was a solid foundation. Nick’s dad and I only managed to stay together a short time, and our relationship was rocky at best. When he and I parted ways we went through the court system to establish joint custody and child support. In our young minds each of us felt we had the best of intentions for Nick’s well-being, and we did our best to raise our son between two very different households.
By the time Nick was in his mid-teens, he began to drink alcohol from the liquor cabinet on a regular basis. Unbeknownst to me until years later, he was trying to quell his anxiety about many aspects of his life, including the disconnect he felt at both his mom’s and his dad’s homes. For the most part a stay-at-home mom, I was available to listen when he chose to share with me, but the truth was I had married and we’d enlarged our family four more times. There was a lot going on in our home. As for his dad, he married, but decided one child was more than enough to handle.
Today Nick, now twenty-seven and five years sober, readily admits he and I had a very strong relationship during his growing up years, yet there were things he didn’t feel he could tell me, and I know there were many times when I wasn’t fully present in his life, as well as many moments when I (and his dad, his stepfather and stepmother) tried to impose our agendas and wishes onto his emerging being.
Raising children into emotionally, spiritually, physically sound adults requires time, faith, courage, patience and grace. An ability to evaluate the job we are doing as parent, to pull back from all that life sends our way, and truly be present with our child…THAT is where connection begins.
Guest blog written by: Kimberly Muench
Kimberly Muench is a freelance writer who published her autobiography My Mothers Footprints: A Story of Faith, Calm, Courage, Patience and Grace in 2011. She has been a regular contributor to Suburban Parent Magazine in Dallas/Fort Worth, crafts a newspaper column entitled Something to Muench on, has been published through a number of parenting sites including Huffington Post, 10 to 20 Parenting, Mamapedia. University of Moms and A Fine Parent. In addition, Kimberly writes weekly on her own website www.mymothersfootprints.com about faith, family, marriage and personal growth. Kimberly is a wife and mother to five children who hails from Wisconsin, but now makes her home in Texas.