When I’m hurting or struggling with something really challenging like my divorce, an argument with a family member, or losing a loved one, I always think, There is no greater pain than what I am feeling right now.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve watched my kids go through some heart-wrenching things and I wanted to take it all away so they didn’t have to experience that kind of shooting pain. I know I can’t.
There really is something worse than going through loss, suffering, or emotional distress yourself– watching your kids go through it.
Teens Struggle as Part of Growing Up
Our instinct as parents is to try and save our kids from anything unpleasant. It comes as naturally to us as walking, or eating.
When our kids are babies and cry, there’s a reason we feel sick to our stomachs and frustrated when we can’t figure out how to make them feel better. We want to fix all the things that bring them discomfort and when we are faced with just how impossible that is, it crushes us every single time.
As they grow up, they are going to experience heart break, they are going to have struggles with their friends, they are going to lose games, fail tests, and all of that is going to bring struggle, hardship, and lots of tears. For them, and for us.
The first time one of my teens went through a break up, I was breaking right alongside of them. Watching them go through that kind of pain gutted me. I remember feeling that kind of pain as a teenager, and just because they are younger and have less life-experience, and yes there are plenty of fish in the sea, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like nothing they’ve ever felt before. It does. And I felt helpless and inadequate.
When our children are excited for something, we feel our heart speed up. When they are nervous about a performance, try out, or giving a speech in front of the class, our cheeks redden too. And when they are sad because they have been hurt, we hurt just as hard and it makes us want to crawl out of our skin because we know we just have to let them get through it.
We can say all the right things, give them support, and be there. But our kids are going to struggle no matter what we do, and we need to be okay with that.
We can’t step in if they don’t get their dream job or their best friend breaks up with them. We won’t be able to fix their marriage if it falls apart or bail them out of a financial mess.
Standing by and watching our kids work through their struggles themselves has got to be the hardest yet best thing a parent can do for their kids.
It will teach them how to mentally handle hard times. It builds resilience. It will help them deal with unexpected events and disappointment later in their life. I have to remind myself of all these things (over and over again) when my kids are feeling crappy about life or when they are trying to get through something that seems incredibly dark.
We can give our all to support them and ease their pain. We can offer advice, buy ice cream, be a sounding board, and tell them how much we love and support them. But knowing we can’t take it all away slowly kills us inside. Raising strong kids takes a toll on our mind, body, and soul. But in the end, when we know we have done everything we can, and the tough stuff they’ve been through has made them evolve and grow in ways that can’t be taught, we know we’ve done a good job parenting.
We just have to learn to manage our minds when we our teens and adult kids are caught in the thick of something and we are left feeling like we would give anything to take their struggles away. It might help to think about all you have survived in your life. You are still here, better and stronger because you worked through something and no one took the pain away for you.
Life struggles make people strong and in the long run, the fact that we can’t erase crappy circumstances for our kids is a blessing.
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