When kids grow up, their relationships with their parents might change. When your teenager was a small child, you might have had an easier time managing the relationship. Small children look to their parents for guidance, companionship, role modeling, and meeting all their needs. As kids get older, they gain more autonomy and find influences outside of the immediate family.
As a parent, you might feel like you lost your grip on your child. They start to assert their own identity, which might clash with yours. They might denounce everything they’ve learned from you as a small child as they question their values with experience.
Who They Are Now
Teens and young adults start to branch out of the home, finding role models and examples of conduct from other sources. Sometimes, they find destructive influencers who enable bad behaviors, like drug or alcohol use, promiscuity, or other problematic behaviors. Other times, they clash with you over nearly everything — from how they dress and speak to their overall values.
You might have had different hopes for them. When your kids were younger, they might have voiced, “I want to be just like you when I grow up!” Now, as a teenager, they might behave like anything but a mirror image of you! They might not be who you expected them to become.
Is This Who You Expected Them to Become?
Your kid might be the polar opposite of who you are. You also might not relate to their tastes in music or friendships. You might not like the people they are dating. Some of these issues can be concerning, such as when a teenager spends time with people much older than them or shows signs of a substance use or mental health disorder.
Do you feel somewhat disappointed? Were you hoping they would follow in your footsteps or go along a specific path? Sometimes, as a parent, you might need to move on from the expectations you had for your child when they were much younger and accept who they’ve become.
Acknowledge How You Feel
It is okay to acknowledge feeling upset or disappointed when reality does not match expectations. However, you need to be sure that your child does not feel that you love them any less because of this.
Parents often try to push these feelings of disappointment down, leaving them unacknowledged out of guilt. You might think, “How can I be disappointed with my kid for being themselves? I must be a bad parent for having these thoughts!” But you are allowed to have your feelings, and acknowledging these complex feelings will help you move forward to a healthy relationship with your teen.
Letting Go and Moving Forward
Sometimes, you need to go through a “mourning” period regarding the differences between your expectations and reality. Even as a parent, you are not expected to be a superhuman! You are allowed to have feelings, too. Learning to acknowledge and process these feelings will get them out so that you can focus on building your relationship with your kid for who they are rather than who you expected them to become.
Even if your child has problematic behaviors that need to change, like substance abuse or conduct issues, you are not accepting reality if you fight your feelings of being disappointed or upset. Work on your feelings with a friend, your partner, a counselor, or another outside source. When you accept your child no matter who they are, you get out of the shadows and get back into the work of helping them through this crisis.
Loving Our Kids No Matter Who They Are
Part of being a parent is accepting that loving your kids can be a challenge no matter who they are. You might think of some ideal version of the perfect parent, never questioning who their child is. You might draw comparisons between yourself and this ideal. However, this ideal, perfect parent who never felt disappointed by their child does not exist!
Unconditional love and acceptance are crucial to the health and well-being of kids as they grow up. They can develop healthy coping skills, boundaries, and self-esteem when they know that their parents love them for who they are — no matter what. Yes, your kids might upset or shock you. They might rock the foundations of the life you imagined for them.
However, if you want them to grow into healthy, well-adjusted young adults, you need to let go of what your relationship once was and accept it for what it is now and moving forward.
Kids might disappoint us as parents when they grow distant from our values and our relationship with them as young children. Younger kids might appear like a mirror version of us. They might follow us around, asking questions as if we are an endless pit of knowledge. As kids grow older, they branch out into the world and away from our influence. Our relationships will change as they gain autonomy and assert their own identity. While we need to love and accept our kids no matter what, when they succumb to bad influences, we might need to accept the reality of what is occurring and get them the help they need. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment in the Colorado Rockies is here to help your child learn healthy ways of managing emotions and stress when they engage in maladaptive behaviors, like drug use, cutting, promiscuity, and other issues. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.