When children display challenging behaviors, like drug use, drinking, cutting, running away, or other actions, parents might struggle to show their kids love and affection. Some parents might withhold affection to avoid “reinforcing” destructive behaviors. However, when our children appear to deserve our love the least is when they need it the most.
Parents might feel like their kids are doing things to make their lives more challenging. Parents may feel overwhelmed with calls from schools about disruptive behaviors, taking kids to the ER for self-injurious actions, looking around all night for kids running away, and other issues. When we seem to spend all of our time dealing with a teen’s problematic behaviors, we can feel like our “well of love” has completely dried up. We survive these situations until the next one happens.
Taking Care of Ourselves
One of the fundamental aspects of creating a healthy family unit is ensuring that we take care of ourselves. As Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey states on numerous episodes of “Beyond Risk and Back,” the best way to care for our family is to:
- Take care of ourselves first
- Take care of our adult relationships second (spouse or partner)
When we tend to our needs and those in our adult relationships first, we can help our kids. Some people may believe that this is selfish and that they need to put their child first. However, by caring for ourselves and our parenting partner, we can ensure that we are at our best to care for our children. In a way, this is really about putting our kids first. Our kids are the reason why we maintain our health and wellness. The reason we put effort into our relationship with our spouse or partner is both for ourselves and our child’s best interests.
How is Caring for Ourselves Related to “Unconditional Love for Others”?
We cannot give our kids unconditional love if we are not caring for ourselves first. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one that we will have. Self-love and self-appreciation are the foundation for all the love that we put out into the world.
We can remember some of the following to help us from getting “rundown” when our child displays problematic behaviors:
- Ask for help when overwhelmed
- Seek guidance and support
- Take a break when needed
We can display unconditional love to our children best when we are healthy and practicing self-appreciation.
Showing Kids Unconditional Love
Unconditional love essentially means “I will love you no matter what.” However, this is not to say that we cannot set boundaries or consequences for our child’s behavior. Instead, unconditional love means that we will continue to see the value in our children despite the challenging issues they face. The core of unconditional love is seeing the value in a person and knowing that they are capable of doing much better when they are not doing well.
We can give our kids unconditional love by practicing some of the following:
- Remembering to say, “I love you.” Even when kids are driving us up the wall, or we are angry with them at the moment!
- Taking time to listen. We can use active-listening skills to engage our children in meaningful conversation. Active-listening shows our kids unconditional love by giving them our full attention.
- Show an interest in them. We can show an active interest in the things that our children love—-even if we do not understand their interests. We can ask our kids about the things they like, such as video games, music, or what they value from their friends. Understanding why they enjoy these things is not necessary—our kids are the experts on their interests, so just ask questions!
- Be honest. Honesty and transparency show others that we respect them. By telling our kids truthful information, we show them that we care enough about them not to lie to them.
- Apologize when needed. We will make mistakes. Our emotions will overpower us during a crisis or challenging moment. We might yell when we feel overwhelmed or in a “power struggle” with kids. We can go back later, apologize, explain why we behaved as we did, what we will do next time, and move forward. Acknowledging our mistakes does not make us look weak or like we do not know what we are doing as parents—instead, apologizing and promising to do better next time role-models good behavior for our kids to follow.
Remember the Entire Family
Kids going through challenging behaviors need our unconditional love and support. We also need to remember to show our other children and family members this type of love and acceptance. Often, siblings of those struggling with problematic behaviors might go unnoticed as we need to put most of our resources into our troubled child.
Showing our kids unconditional love and support can be a challenge when they are engaging in problematic behaviors. We might struggle to show affection to them, as we are overwhelmed or feel drained from dealing with the consequences of their actions. When kids are getting into trouble or displaying challenging behaviors, they are often signaling that they need support and help. We might feel as though our kids deserve our love the least in these moments; however, these are the times when they might need our love the most. If your child struggles with problematic behaviors, like running away, cutting, drug or alcohol use, promiscuity, or other issues, residential treatment might be the next right step for your child. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, is here for kids and their families. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest.