Things I’ve learnt from parents

Following last week’s post about what I’ve learnt from young people I’d also like to represent the other side too. At Headspace Guildford, and in my NHS job, I am in the humbling position of hearing from parents every day and of sitting in on parents and children/young people as they talk. Here are some things I’ve noticed:

  1. In the main, in almost all my interactions with them parents do genuinely love their children and really care about what happens to them
  2. Parenting is hard, and parents don’t always know how to show their children how much they love and care for them, or they show it in a way which doesn’t quite match how their child would like them to show it (‘The 5 Languages of love’ book can be helpful here!)
  3. Related to the above, parents make mistakes too (it’s not just young people). Just like there’s no great manual to tell you what to do in every situation you face, there is no parenting manual either. Parents are just trying to do their best in a situation.
  4. Sometimes parents replay what we call ‘parent tapes’ which means they re-play things that were said to them as kids (even if they hated it at the time!). This is because it is programmed into them at a young age and under pressure we revert to things that are programmed in because our brains don’t work so well when we are stressed (which is a whole other post I’ll do some other time)
  5. Sometimes parents act like the adult in the conversation and sometimes they don’t. (see above re the brain not working so well). Just because they don’t always act as they probably should doesn’t mean they don’t care about you (see point 1).
  6. What matters to parents is often different to what matters to young people, because you are at different phases in your life and are doing different things. This is hard because something which might really upset you as a young person, might not seem a big deal to an adult who is 20 years further on and can’t quite remember what that felt like.

So, if there was one thing I thought might help it would be to say, try walking a mile in each others shoes – that is to say, look at it from their point of view before things get too heated and it’s difficult to think about anything. Because, fundamentally, parents just want their children to be happy and even if they are making a hash of it, there is common ground there, because young people just want to be happy too.

I’ve blogged endlessly about compassion recently, without quite meaning to, but it does show that it’s really important (at least to me at any rate). If we could all be kinder to each other (even mid-row) we’d be able to manage our differences and that would make the world an easier place to live in for us all. Good luck! Be kind.

If you’re a parent and there is one thing you think it’s important young people know, please do comment below.

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