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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let your child live and learn from Life's experiences

Our children have lives of their own. No matter how much we worry for them, they still have to live out their lives.

A friend recently shared that though her young adult daughter was greatly interested in theatre, she was not letting her join her college’s theatre group because she felt one of her daughter’s classmates was making passes at her (the daughter). The mother confessed that she was worried stiff for the “future” of her daughter.

I believe worrying for our children comes naturally to us parents. But we have to learn to let go.

In our friend’s case, she must appreciate the fact that, naturally, a grown-up, young adult, woman will attract the attention of class-fellows. And that she must trust her daughter to be able to handle any advances, that she may or may not be interested in, appropriately. She can’t forsake her daughter’s interest in something she’s passionate about for the sake of her (the mother’s) perceived peace of mind. Honestly, for how long, and from how many people and things, can we protect our children? When they are in their early teens or younger, we can direct them and have them follow us. But, as they grow older, they will have to be allowed to touch and feel Life, they will want to make choices – some of which will not be acceptable or may not seem correct to us as parents – and they will want to experience Life at their own terms. I strongly believe we must not interfere with the learning curve of our children. While we must always champion what’s the right way to do something, we cannot and must not expect them to accept our view immediately. We must have faith that they will see our point (if we have an objective one, that is) – when they have tried, tested, fallen, failed and learnt from their experience.  

Our children are born through us. And not for us. This is not an original thought – this is what the venerable Lebanese-American poet and writer Khalil Gibran (1883~1931) has said over a century ago. And this is so true now, as it was then. The lives of our children are distinctly different from our own. We imagine that they are intertwined because in the first 15 years of a child’s Life, as parents, we are providers, protectors, planners and directors. So, by force of habit, we get into the control mode as soon as our children want to go out and explore the world. Two forms of worry are intrinsically seeded in us parents – one is that we don’t want our children to make the same mistakes that we made or live the hard lives we have had to live; and the other is that we don’t want them to suffer at all. Now, both worries may be justified, but try explaining these to your child, especially if he or she is over 15, and see what happens. This doesn’t mean you must not counsel or that you must not share an experiential point of view. This just means don’t expect an immediate buy-in. It is this expectation that distances your child from you and that distance is famously touted as a “generation gap”.

Whether you believe in this or not, this is the way it is. Each of our lives is designed in a unique way. Whatever is happening to us has been ordained, most definitely in a cosmic sense, to help us grow and evolve, even as we biologically age. This is exactly the way the lives of our children too are designed. No amount of forethought by you could have changed the course of your Life. Similarly, no amount of worrying by you can change the course of your child’s Life.

Sit back and re-examine your relationship with your child. Especially if you have a teenager or a young adult at home. Reboot your perspective and role – both. Choose to be a good friend who suggests, but does not demand; who shares, but does not control; who is honest, but does not insist; and who is forgiving, but does not say ‘I told you so’ when things don’t go per your child’s plans. None of us can ever claim to be perfect, understanding parents. We are all works-in-progress. And so are our children. If we understand and appreciate this truth, we will stop worrying and let our children live their lives – and learn from their experiences!

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