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Are we mentoring our children, or simply managing them through life? Did your parents share with you as a human being to better prepare you for your future? Listen to this episode of the Possibility Podcast and discover…
- why your children need to learn the narrative of your life
- how a parent’s vulnerability makes a strong child
- the value in mentoring your children
- how a parent’s openness with their children protects them from issues later in life
Are you a parent or grandparent ready to truly share more with your children? As an adult, have you benefitted from having mentoring, vulnerable parents?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #075
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy and marriage counselling, and I am the author of the Possibility Principle, the inspiration and the companion to this podcast.
I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking, a new philosophy and a new game plan for life, and all of the infinite possibilities that await you.
Hello everybody and welcome to today’s episode of the Possibility Podcast. This episode is intended for current parents, current grandparents, future parents, and for those of you who may never become parents. It’s about what our parents don’t share with us, their children, and the consequences of that. In my professional experience as a therapist, when I am working with adolescents, teens, young adults, and I have the opportunity at times to ask them what their parents shared with them about this or that, the experiences of their own lives, the ups and downs, the hardships, the struggles, the hopes, these young people look at me typically with a shrug of the shoulders. Their parents haven’t really shared the deeper narrative of their lives. This creates incredible emptiness.
When parents don’t share the texture of their lives and they just take on the role of managing their children’s education, in college applications and future jobs, we become managers in our children’s lives, but we don’t share the texture of our own life.
This is kind of like a sanitizing of life, with the fabric, the essence of life is not conveyed. The consequences of that are unimaginable, certainly a sterility, a sense of depression. There’s so much to be learned by sharing with our children, the ins and the outs, the complexities, the successes, the disappointments of our own lives. This is what it means to be human. Life is not just about stipulating your goals for the kids, their grades, and the future job. We don’t want to just be their life managers, we need to be their mentors, but we haven’t been mentoring when we don’t share our own lives.
This leads to a virtual desert of deeper sharing. I can’t even find the words to describe what those consequences look like. So as children, we may get the facts and details of our parents’ lives. We know where they grew up, but we’re missing the heartbeat, there’s a loss of storytelling and the loss of mentoring; frankly my role as a therapist isn’t necessarily about being therapeutic with my young clients. It’s about mentoring them in answering questions about life. What’s it all about, what’s the meaning? What’s the purpose? What are your fears?
When I come across a young person who has a profound fear around death and ask them if your parents ever discussed their beliefs around death spirituality, what happens… a shrug of the shoulders, it’s never been discussed.
Sometimes parents will say to me they don’t want to burden their children. I think that’s a throwaway excuse. I think, is that we were afraid of their judgment, how they will see us. But seeing us as parents in an unrealistic way, as though, we went through life undaunted unchallenged that there are ups and downs, this does not prepare our children for life. We want to share our unfulfilled hopes and wishes our disappointments and our successes and share how we handled life’s hardships and struggles. If we only share the positive or only share superficially, we are not providing a deeper narrative of our own life.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have asked my young clients as they’re talking about their parents’ history, and they share that one of the parents was previously married, and I might ask oh, how come your mom, your dad got divorced, did they ever tell you that? Nope! They never told me. Well, were you curious? They shrug the shoulders; I guess they weren’t curious.
What’s missing here? The vibrancy of life is missing. I shouldn’t be a substitute mentor. We as parents need to be able to share with our children, not just our successes, but how we navigated the rough times, a deeper sharing of our emotional lives. Our victories and our upsets in our disappointments. After all, this is all quite as a framework for life, to be able to share heartbreaks, unfulfilled hopes, fears… emotional intelligence requires the sharing of this tapestry of life, but we just tend to hit the delete button and focus on their success. The success of our kids, the grades, their relationships, their accomplishments. But no attention being paid to the emotional tapestry of our own lives.
I remember some time in my twenties, my father sharing with me that he had gone through some trouble and challenging years in his business. And he’d lie awake in bed at night, kind of like, hoping that there’d be a fire and it all his inventory would be destroyed. No one would be hurt and he could collect the insurance money. I felt so honored, did he share that with me, and how he eventually navigated through those times and became successful again in this business. It created a framework for me as to how I could handle financial stress or hardship.
When we share our challenges with our children, this creates a resilience we’re showing them how to navigate through heartbreak. Did you ever have your heart broken? How did you deal with it? Are we sharing this with our kids? Are we sharing our vulnerability with them? Sadly, we’re not.
Emotional intelligence is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our children. The only way to foster emotional intelligence and cultivate it is to begin by sharing. Not just asking our children, how they feel. The things that go unsaid have a profound consequence in the lives of our children and in our own lives. And by the way, by not sharing these more emotionally intimate matters with our children, we don’t foster and cultivate a deeper emotional relationship with them. We guide them through life, trying to steer them away from trouble, try to steer them toward success and launch them out into the world.
But what are we launching? We are launching young people who have not been cultivated emotionally psychologically and spiritually. We have to step back from the role of being once again the manager of our children’s educational careers and making sure that they don’t get into trouble and provide so much more: a deeper, emotional sharing, an intimate sharing of our own lives, our own hopes, our own disappointments, how we would do it all over again, given the chance. What a wonderful conversation that would be.
These create memories, unforgettable memories, just like the memory I shared of my dad.
I was working recently with a young woman around her relationship and the conflict she was enduring in her relationship with her boyfriend and the fact that he was verbally abusive to her. I paused for a moment, realizing that one of her parents had previously been in a marriage that was emotionally and verbally abusive, and I realized stunningly that they’d never share that with her. Can you imagine if she had that information? How she may have navigated her own relationship differently?
We need to do more than dot the I’s and cross the T’s as parents. And by the way, for those of you are listening who are grandparents, you can step right in and do the same thing I’m proposing that parents do. Open up and share the deeper tapestry of your life. Tell stories, bring your life narrative into your relationship, have a deeper connection with your children and grandchildren that goes beyond just a utilitarian relationship, a checking in that leaves us short, short of everything we deserve in life.
Ultimately as a parent or as a grandparent, you might want to think to yourself, how do I want to be remembered? How do I want to be known by my children, by my grandchildren? This is a fundamental question to ask yourself: To be known, you need to reveal yourself in more than simple and practical ways. You need to share the flavor of your life and your life experience.
So think about the consequences of what goes unsaid, and what you haven’t been sharing with your children, and hopefully it’s not too late. We can still share.
Dive in, take the risk, embrace some vulnerability and learn to actually navigate and mentor your children through life’s ups and downs. By doing that, they may not a therapist in the future.
Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and until next time be well and be safe.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Possibility Podcast, and I welcome your feedback on this or any episode. Please send me an email at Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com, or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at melschwartz.com.
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And thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life as you embrace new possibilities.