Monday, February 25, 2013

When Parenting Just Isn't Easy

Each stage of parenting and child development has its own challenges and high points.

Parenting in the older teen years, and now early young adult years, for Mike is proving to be incredibly challenging.  There is just so much drama and angst!

Maybe it's because he's the first child and is the first to prepare to leave the nest?  Maybe it's just his personality combined with life experiences?  I don't know...but it just is not easy right now!

It's so hard with the redefining of relationships as he gets older.  Finding a balance between parent and child as he takes on more independence and responsibility...but still lives in our proving to be emotionally exhausting.

Teenagers have quite a bit of self focus!  Trying to help them work through all of their feelings in a healthy way is important, but not always easy.  Mike tends to  'emotionally vomit' on us...which isn't fun.

I have compassion on how difficult this stage is for him.  Everything is changing and uncertain.  He is trying to figure out the direction for his life...what career he wants to pursue...when he will find the right woman...where he will finish his college degree.

It doesn't help that we don't have any personal experience for this stage of life.  By the time Jay and I were 20, we were married, had a 16 month old and had another baby on the way!  I know we made mistakes along the way.  It's definitely better to be an adult first before you have children!  Some of Mike's spiritual struggles stem from things beyond our the grief from losing a baby sister and having a brother with special needs and the way it affects our family.  We can't force him to deal with it...though I wish we would have done more with therapy when it happened.  Kids can seem resilient and fine at the time, but they internalize things that can get stuck and wreak havoc later on in life.

Ugh...there's so many ways to feel like a bad parent!

Mike has so much going for him.  He is smart, hardworking(when it doesn't have to do with something we ask him to do!), and frugal.  He is doing great in college and is focused on his education.  He doesn't drink or do drugs or have bad friends.

It sounds like I'm complaining about nothing, right!?!

It's his at home attitude when he's not "happy Mike".  When he's got negative feeling that he doesn't know how to deal with and the emotional vomit begins it is frustrating and discouraging.  The disrespect is not ok....and his inability to see the disrespect and hurtful attitude and the way it affects us and his siblings is so.incredibly.frustrating.

Sometimes it makes me just want to give up and just put it on cruise control until he goes away to school in September...just manage to co-exist!

But we all deserve more than that!  That won't help him to grow into an adult that can work through his emotions in a positive way, either.  I want to have a healthy and close relationship with him, not cringe every time he walks into the room because I don't know what to expect.  That's codependency!  I have spent many years and may therapy dollars to work through those issues in my own life so I didn't pass on those patterns to my kids!

In addition to bringing this situation to prayer, I picked up books that I've had for several years to seek some guidance; Parenting with Grace by Gregory Popcak and Boundaries With Teens by Henry Townsend.  Hopefully they can shed some light on the way to proceed.

Anyone have some advice to share?  Either as parents of young adults or from growing up in a Catholic family and positive ways your parents handled this particular stage?  How to handle struggles with faith and not wanting to go to church each week?  A disrespectful attitude at times towards family?

I know that it could be so much worse....but it also could be so much better!  So that's what I'm striving for! I know that this is yet another situation in life that will be a marathon and not a sprint!

Gotta love all these opportunities to work on patience and fortitude!