Mom! Dont come in the shower when I am in here.
Dad, Im too old for hats and balloons on my
birthday. Mom, I can walk to school. You dont need
to drive me anymore. These are just some of the things children
say to us as they grow older. What they are really telling us,
beneath the spoken words, are that the family is facing new changes.
Changes that will require all members to accommodate to if the
families are to stay healthy.
Changes come in all types. There are the common, typical changes that
every family must go through. They are common because time, and its
passing, is common to us all. You wouldnt let your two year old
play outside unsupervised but at six you might. You wouldnt let
your six-year-old walk to the mall but you might let your
sixteen-year-old. These changes are developmentally healthy and for
the most part, are handled by families well. More important but still
common changes occur when a family member takes on a new role.
Its like a promotion or a job change. A man or woman becomes a
spouse. A spouse becomes a parent. A parent becomes a grandparent.
Time waits for now one and ignores no one. We are all swept along
with the changes it brings. When the change is normal, the winds of
change are like a gentle breeze. But it can also bring dark,
unpleasant storms of change. These storms can rip a family apart.
Spouses can become single parents. Grandparents can parent again (if
they take on the chore of raising their grandchildren). Children may
find themselves parentless or become parents while still a child as
in the case of teen pregnancies. Whether your family is flowingly
with the standard currents of change or suffering the ravages of a
tempest, here are some general principles for family survival:
As we have already mentioned, change is normal. Why are you so
surprised that your child doesnt want you coming into the
shower when he is in there? Although parents know this time will
come, they live in denial. They want to believe that he will always
be a little boy. They talk of the good times when little
Johnny needed help taking a bath or would run naked around the house
when he was only two (to the embarrassment of Johnny). What growing
child wants his parents to box him in with words and stories of the
past when the future is calling?
Fortunately for parents, teens are rebellious. Rebellion can be a
signal to parents that change is blowing and the child, not the
parents, is moving with it. The trouble is that teens speak their
mind, instead of speaking up, about their wants and needs. This gives
them a reputation of defiance and oppositionalism. What if it was
really the parents who are rebellious as the defy time and oppose
change. Perhaps the child is the submissive one, giving himself or
herself over to the movements of time while the parent is stuck in
the mud of denial.
Take One Step At A Time
It would be nice if life was like families seen on television.
Television families experience a problem and its solution in under an
hour. In real life, it takes a little longer. But change can take
place in small steps that lead to solutions quickly, without the
The first step is to watch for the signals of change. They will occur
in the emotional interactions between family members. Okay, they may
be more like sparks than signals but they are clear indicators that
members must do something new.
The next step is to communicate. Parents tire of trite suggestions
like communicating with your child. But they are our safe
islands when stormy winds of change blow. Falling back on the tried
and true (and trite) suggestions of communicating are what get us
safely through the tough times. Communicate means to LISTEN to your
child when they tell you not to come into the shower. It means SPEAK
up and tell your child that you hear their need for space and
privacy. The more a child appears rebellious the more a
parent needs to listen. This will allow a real dialogue to occur
between parent and child, where family members speak up and listen to
each other interCHANGEABLY.
Families dont need to go through changes, normal or stormy,
without some help. Help can come from within the family or from
without. Mom can ask dad for advice and dad can look to mom for
support. Family meetings can resolve issues much quicker than endless
power struggles. Consult with extended family members,who have seen
storms come and go. If family members are unable, unwilling, or
unavailable for help, go to outside resources.
Every community has agencies that help families. Find out who those
agencies are and ask for help. Waiting out the storm may
leave families devastated. Change is stress and support is its
buffer. Relatives, friends, and professionals shelter families from
the storms of change. It is much easier to deal with a colicky child
when there is someone to talk to or take over. Family therapy is much
cheaper than paying divorce lawyers. Asking the local church or
synagogue for help is less invasive than calling the police to deal
with domestic violence or out-of-control children.
Reinforce The Foundations
In order for a home to withstand the winds of change, it will require
a firm foundation. The foundation in the family is the parents. A
weak foundation will crumble under the stress of change. A solid
foundation will be keep a home intact, although shaken and showing
some wear and tear. But it will stand. Parents must take a stand
together. More importantly, they must take time together.
Remember what it was like before children? Parents enjoyed one
another. They spent time together. They knew and desired to know more
about one another. Than the blessed event occurs: Baby! Life suddenly
changes the family, both its quantity and its quality, for
better and worse. Add more children, a few bills, and a chaotic
routine of work and family life and you have a foundation of marriage
that is bound to suffer. Entropy, natures word for change
overtime, takes place. In marriage it has be called boredom, lack of
interest, or personality differences. The solution is to pay some
attention to the relationship a little re-pairing of the
foundation. A little pairing up as a couple. If time and change can
wear a relationship down, time and change (with a conscious
blueprint) can build it up again.
That brings parents to the next principle: Making room for a child in
the family. Making room refers to a having a new or next child as
well as making room for the child to grow and stretch his or her
wings. Families with new babies will need to establish new roles.
Parents will have to learn the art, the battle, the teamwork of
sharing the leadership roles and daily responsibilities. They will
need to sneak in time as a couple. A few minutes of snuggling after
the 2 a.m. feeding before falling asleep. Quick breakfast before
rushing off to work. A rare night out with the baby at grandmas
with frequent phone calls to grandmas throughout the dinner and the movie.
Families with older children will need to work cooperatively to avoid
the old divide and conquer routine older children love so
much. Parents still need to exercise their leadership role but now
must weather the frightening process of making room for the teenager
to operate in and out of the family. A shifting of identity will take
place as the child gets older. For both the parents and the child.
The parent wills not be needed by the older child or so
it will seem. The child will seek out his or her own way in life out
from under the protection of the home.
Refocus Your Life
As children become adults, parents must refocus their life on
themselves, careers, marriage, aging parents, and their own aging. We
call this the empty nest. Momma and poppa birds just have each other
now. They can retreat from one another squawking their loss across
the painful, empty spaces, in the nest and in their hearts. Or they
can fly off on new adventures together outside the nest. Flying means
coasting on the winds of change and it will involve the risk of a
storm or two along the way. These storms may include the caring and
death of their own parents, the grandparents. It may mean a loss of
work and physical health themselves. It may mean playing the new role
as the grandparent bird as new chang-lings hatch and grow.
A new focus must take place. New roles and emphasis are created or
rediscovered. Marriage partners may look at each other as birds of
another feather after so many years tending the nest and the
children. They may have lost the old dreams in the busyness - the
business - of life. Hidden resentments and hurts will come up if they
have not been dealt with before simply because now there is space for
it to come up. One of Murphys Unknown Marital Laws.
Parents must look at children as equals. Children are now adults with
families of their own. The old roles as caretaker are modified into
supporters and consultants on family life for the next generation.
This is the time to read the patterns on the horizon. To study the
weather of change and pass the information on to the next generation
so they can cope with the winds of change in their family.
So when your child tells you they dont need your help or they
are embarrassed to be seen with you in front of their friends, smile,
and let the winds of change blow through your hair. If the storms of
change plummet you with hail and lightening, seek cover in your
family sanctuary, snuggle into the nest, and know that it is just
life reminding you that change is needed. Or, if the nest is empty,
look on the horizon to where you will fly to next, not at the worn,
familiar spaces of the nest. Tomorrow the sun will shine and the
winds of change will blow on by.