My Facebook feed is full of happy graduation pictures, parties, awards, nor-cal championships, and other brag-worthy achievements. It feels SO GOOD to be proud of your child and celebrate their amazing-ness with the world. But what if your kid doesn’t measure up?
Alli’s* son was an excellent student, happy and full of life. Sophmore year, he made new friends with whom he started vaping. Junior year he started smoking marijuana and was a daily user by Senior year. He got through school, barely, but lost interest in clubs, sports, dating, part time jobs, everything that used to make Alli proud. It was hard to sit through graduation watching other successful, high achieving kids receive their awards. Her mind was full of angry arguments, “He should have done better, He’s wasting his potential, When is he going to snap out of it and actually care?” Underneath the resentment was shame, “I should have set clearer boundaries, I’m not a good enough Mom, People think I’m a loser because my kid is a loser.”
Kylie* was an amazing soccer player: Division A, State Champion, on track for a full ride scholarship to play for her first choice university team. Her parents couldn’t be more proud. Half way through her senior year of high school, she broke her femur and suffered a concussion. She laid in a dark room for a month, recovering from her injuries. No school, no sports, and a future that will forever be altered. Her parents felt lost, confused, and uncertain. They were grateful she was going to recover but grieving the loss of the dreams they had for her.
All sorts of things can derail a teenager’s life: depression, anxiety, a first love or bad break-up, parental divorce, teen pregnancy, addiction, you name it. Here are things parents can remember if they find themselves on the downturn of a parental-pride roller coaster.
William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” But we’ve also hear “Children rise to your expectations.” If expectations give something for kids to aspire to but are the root of all heartache, what’s a parent to do? It’s good to remember that just because children rise to our expectations, doesn’t mean they MEET them. If we expect them to get all A’s on their report card, they might get all B’s. If we expected all D’s, they might get all F’s. Isn’t that what “rising” means? Maybe, because of Alli’s high expectations, her son started smoking pot at 16 instead of 13. We’ll never know.
Having a teenager not live up to your expectations can be a step on your spiritual journey. Other parents had to work on dissolving expectations with divorce or diagnoses. Some parents will walk further down their spiritual journey when their child “comes out of the closet” or quits college to work at Hooters. The highest purpose for raising children isn’t to fuel our ego, but to dissolve it. Great spiritual teachers talk about our goal to “die before we die”. To kill off our ego attachments to this physical world so that we can start enjoying the benefits of heaven, before we actually arrive.
Have high hopes and aspirations for your children if it feels good to do so. Celebrate their achievements and accomplishments relative to THEM, without entering the land of “compare and despair”. Bring your brain into the present moment with this question, “What do I love and appreciate about my child as they are today?”
Feeling negative emotions is a sign that you are off your spiritual journey and attached to ego. Every time you argue with reality you will suffer: “He should take his grades more seriously” (but he doesn’t), “She shouldn’t party so much” (and she does), “How come she isn’t more like me?” (because she is different). Try accepting reality as it is and ask yourself “How do I want to feel about the fact that he doesn’t take his grades seriously?” or “How do I want to feel about the fact that she likes to party?”
Another trick to feeling better is to add three words onto the end of a sentence “and that’s ok”. She is different than I am, and that’s ok. She has anxiety, and that’s ok. He’s not going to college, and that’s ok.
Some people meditate on mountain tops or live in an ashram to achieve enlightenment. The rest of us use our teenagers and Facebook to move along on our spiritual journey. When your ego takes a beating, it’s time to go higher. Want help? Schedule a free initial life coaching appointment at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me
*top photo courtesy of tOzz at freedigitalphotos.net * second photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at freedigitialphotos.net