Would you have said something different?
"Would you have said anything different to parents you've counselled before now that you are a parent of teenagers yourself?" My friend asked me this poignant question after I had just poured my very disappointed heart out to her after a rough week.
It took me a second.
I've spent the past 11 years as a youth worker walking families through conflict and turmoil. I've talked to parents on the phone for hours. I've listened to their heart-break. I've done my best to explain, without compromising confidentiality, why the kid was acting the way they were and what they could do about it. I've given lots of deeply ignorant advice.
Would I have said something different to the parent who didn't understand why their child was skipping school to smoke up in the forest? Would I have said something different to the parent whose kid kept running away with boys, not to be heard from for days at a time?
"I would say all the same things; To look behind the behaviour to the belief motivating it. To listen non-judgementally. To not take it personally because their brains are made of a hormonal soup that makes them act crazy. I would still explain to them the stages of development that would explain their kids behaviours. I would still give them resources to understand anxiety and other mental health troubles. I would still encourage them to show unconditional love and at the same time not cushion natural consequences. BUT I would certainly be more empathetic. I would certainly cry with them more. Because I never knew now much it would hurt. I never knew how difficult it would be to not take it personally. I never knew what it was like to have the person you love so deeply hurt you so badly. I didn't understand how insanely difficult it would be to listen non-judgementally to a kid you knew you raised better than whatever they were doing. I didn't know how mind-bending it was to show unconditional love but not cushion natural consequences. I just didn't get it."
I didn't know.