By Stephen C. Schultz
Below is a letter written by the father of a college age daughter. I have taken the names out to protect identity. This is not a foreign theme to those of us that work to mend family relationships.
I have been thinking about you and your welfare quite a bit lately. You mentioned to me in a previous conversation;
“Dad, you need to take a step back. You are too close to the situation and lack appropriate perspective.”
Teens who find themselves in this situation tend to see themselves as the center of the universe. The parents are nothing but human ATM machines. A pattern of entitlement, manipulation and self deception develops in the teen. The teens tend to surround themselves with friends who act and think in a similar manner. When they struggle with their parents, they discuss the situation with their peers, who see it the same way. It becomes a case of “group think”. The outside associations start to mean more to the teen than the relationship with the teen’s family. It becomes a vicious cycle of circular arguments. The teens generally engage in behaviors that go against the values and standards of the parents. The parents step in to intervene not because of control issues, but because they love the teens so much.
This brings up a question;
What does it mean if a young adult in her 20's finds herself in this situation?
Now, do you still have agency? Absolutely! Will your mom and I always love you? Absolutely! Do we have certain family standards? Absolutely! Do we have to support you in a lifestyle that enables you to continue behaviors that we think, from our perspective, are dangerous physically and emotionally to you? Absolutely Not! Will we be disappointed and hurt if this behavior and thought process continues? Yes! Can you always call me or your mom when you have a problem? Yes! Will I always share my insight and experience to help you navigate situations in your life? Yes! Will I “Bail you out” financially and emotionally? No! Part of adulthood is being accountable for decisions you make, which means living through the “pain” of bad choices. It also allows you to own and appreciate the “joy” and “accomplishment” of good choices.
From the moment you were born, and I held you in my arms, with those big blue eyes staring up at me, I knew you. I loved you. From your infant fist in the air demonstrating “Baby Power” to you leaning on the couch doing “Leg Trick”, we had those family moments of joy. From singing with “Barney” videos to “Jazz Hands” at dance performances to “Superior” grades at piano recitals, we were there with you. I will never forget, walking out of the gym after one of your volleyball matches when you said, “There’s nothing better than spiking that ball right into that girls face!”! You have always had a competitive edge. You have also always demonstrated courage, determination, faithfulness and kindness.
It is easy for parents to stand back and say,“My son or daughter is just hanging with the wrong crowd.”
The problem is, as harsh as it sounds… if that is the crowd you choose to be with; you are the “wrong crowd”!
If you need to talk with someone else you can trust, talk with your uncle. He was there in the hospital the day after you were born. He has known you since day two! J
I love you! Your mother loves you! Your siblings love you! Your grandparents love you! Your uncle's and aunt's love you! Your cousins love you!The “boyfriend” thing needs to end! The hanging at “parties” thing needs to end. The “walk on the wild side trying to find myself” thing needs to end! People don’t “find themselves” they “make themselves”!
You have accomplished a lot with your academics, for this you should be proud! You have skills and insight unmatched by most. As you work with the little children in your chosen field, you know better than anyone the need for human development in a “holistic” manner; physical, emotional and spiritual. Have you made a personal commitment to do the same?