My teenage son was stepping over the line in his behavior choices one evening. In a quiet moment I asked him some questions of the heart. He was not impressed. He told me, “Mom, your psychology doesn’t work for me anymore”. “As a matter of fact,” he added, “you went to school in 1990 and your education is old”.
How does a middle-aged mom reply to those comments? I wallowed in my choices. I thought about lecturing him, I thought about an intelligent come-back, and I thought about climbing under my covers and crying. Admittedly, it took me about an hour to work through my response; wrestling with my thoughts and praying for God’s direction.
As our kids grow toward adulthood they struggle for autonomy; they need to decide what they believe and who they will be, independent of their parents. They may even discover that their parents are not perfect. We risk alienating our youth when we respond to them with hurt feelings.
Unhealthy responses to your hurt feelings
Manipulation. Some of us are masters of manipulation. We can guilt our kids in an effort to control them. Maybe you can manipulate them now, but the relationship will deteriorate in the years to come. Your efforts will squelch their individuality and they will be resentful when they are able to recognize it.
Withdrawal. Emotional events like the one my son and I encountered may tempt a parent to pull away from their child with hurt and angry feelings. When we choose to withdraw, we invite the danger of habitually responding this way during their struggle for independence.
Our behavior leaves our youth to struggle through the rest of their teen years without healthy parental input.
Insecurity. The youthful words of our loved ones can cut to the core of our identity. If we allow the snippy comments to define us, we run the risk of becoming parental weaklings. We will make decisions from our insecurity rather than from a healthy perspective.
Healthy responses to your hurt feelings
Talk about it with your youth. Sometimes it is okay to tell your kid, “My feelings were hurt by your choice of words”. Youth need the freedom to respond to your directives as long as it is done respectfully. Learning their words can hurt or tear down a relationship is a valuable lesson. You have the opportunity to promote a healthy dialogue when this happens.
Learn when to let it go. An adolescent is not equipped to manage and process his mom’s feelings every time she feels hurt.
It is up to us adults to struggle through our own feelings. We need to choose to let them go. We must recognize our youth are developing and testing their way to independence. Remember who the adult is in the relationship.
Talk about it with emotionally healthy adults. Process your feelings with your spouse or your girlfriends. Chances are high that you are not the only parent dealing with hurt feelings. Don’t wait until you perceive a big problem; begin a dialogue with others who want to make emotionally healthy choices. Together you will encourage one another in your parenting.
Develop a healthy identity. We mom’s have the tendency to lose ourselves in our children. When we lose our sense of self, we create unhealthy relationships with our children.
Learn to strike a balance between being a great spouse, an attentive loving mom, and your own person. You can do it! Being at peace with the struggle to obtain the balance will guarantee your continued personal growth.
Take it a step further. Talk with a pastoral or licensed counselor if you are unable to work through your feelings and responses to your children. Your family health is worth the effort of seeking personal support.
Let’s grow through this together. We’ll keep loving on our family, and become healthier women in the process.