The path forward starts with parents
When I started practicing therapy ten years ago, I knew that I wanted to work with families. I think that desire came from a few places: experiencing the pain of my parents’ divorce, the pressure of portraying a “perfect family” façade, and the disappointment of having that almost-but-not-quite connection with my parents. I thought that if I could play any sort of role in parents and children experiencing something different than I had in my family, then that would be worth it for me.
Ten years later, about half of my practice is made up of families with kids of all ages. And every week, I see and hear the pain, pressure and disappointment that these families live with – parents believing that their child is too “different” or too “lost” or too “hopeless” to ever thrive in life, and children believing that their parents are too “angry” or too “distant” or too “disapproving” to ever be supportive. Some parts feel familiar to my family experience, while others are quite different. Regardless, a common question is woven throughout every family I see: “Is there something about us that is too ‘wrong’ to ever allow us to be a joyful, close family?”
As I wrote in my last blog post about working with couples, I take the same approach with families. I try to be as honest as possible and I tell them:
The work will be hard.
This process is not easy.
There is a way to save your family.
And it all comes down to what you choose.
Hope is a choice – it doesn’t just fall in our lap whenever we feel stuck or discouraged.
However, there is one main difference between couples and families in choosing hope: I believe that parents must lead the way in doing so. Part of this comes from my philosophy of how change happens in families, part of this comes from experience, and all of this belief is rooted in how vulnerability works. Vulnerability begets vulnerability, and kids need to learn how to “do” vulnerability.
When parents can be vulnerable and authentic about their fears and concerns for their children, about the ways they believe they have let their kids down, about the pain and sadness they feel when their kids are upset – parents become someone their children want to confide in and trust. When kids can be vulnerable about their insecurities, their fears, their hurts and their shame – kids become open to comfort and change.
And it’s all a choice.
With you and for you,