I was fortunate enough to sit next to a very interesting and inspiring woman on the plane the other day. Her most recent work involves caring for and counseling people who have HIV/AIDS. Naturally, our conversations revolved around “how to change the world”. But since neither of us has any political aspirations, we agreed that we can change our little corners of the world by having conversations with others that may impact their lives in a positive way. And what can I say? I like to talk about sex!
As our flight was descending, she requested I address one discussion in particular: The importance of parents in supporting their children when life hits them hard.
It is a lovely autumn afternoon. You are relaxing while reading the latest sexy romance novel tucked inside a recent National Geographic (no worries, I won’t tell), when your son approaches you with a very serious look on his face. So many things go through your mind; he crashed the car, he flunked a test, he flunked out of school (!), he doesn’t want to go to Grandma’s tonight…. Whatever it is, it can’t be THAT bad. Whatever it is, it will be resolved as soon as he spills
But wait. What was that? What did he say? You don’t think you heard this correctly. His girlfriend is what? Pregnant? What??!! Since when??!! They are only 16 years old! They CAN’T be sexually active yet……can they?
A. Start screaming and yelling “What were you thinking????”
B. Start sobbing uncontrollably.
C. Look at him and say, “Okay, joke’s up.”
D. Don’t say anything you will regret, get your thoughts together, give him a hug, and tell him
you need a minute. Walk away and grab the wine and someone to talk to.
Well, we all know the obvious answer is D (with or without the wine, however). But if you reflexively chose A, B, or C, I won’t judge. I understand it is shocking, scary, and maybe dream-shattering – at least in that moment.
A friend once told me: Don’t Admire the Problem, Work Towards the Solution.
We have all made mistakes. Some mistakes are quite trivial, and others rather shocking, scary, and dream-shattering. And if you haven’t, Ms or Mr. Perfect, I’m sure you know someone who has. Think about how you or someone you know (wink) has worked through seemingly insurmountable problems. I’m betting they gained wisdom and courage to help them grapple with future distressing predicaments. That’s how life works.
You have to make a choice. You can dwell on the problem (“Why me? What will the neighbors think? How could they have done this? I’m so embarrassed. Their life is overrrrrrr!”) Or, you can be a part of the solution by continuing to move forward with the situation at hand.
After you’ve calmed yourself down, take your son by the hand. Tell him you love him. Tell him you will get through this together. This sounds pretty fairy-tale. I get it. I also know that there will be “discussions” of “disappointment”. However, keep it in check – be kind and acknowledge this probably was not on his immediate bucket list either. Put yourself in his (shaking) shoes.
Let’s back away from the idea that certain life situations are “problems” and appreciate that they are, well….”certain life situations”.
In the past I’ve written about helping your child make good choices based on their values and purpose in life. I suggested asking them a few questions, two of which are:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?
- How do you see yourself achieving this goal/dream?
Well, now I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of relationship do you hope to have with your child 5 (or 10) years from now?
- How do you see yourself building that relationship?
So, you tell me. With those four choices up there, which one makes the most sense? Freaking out? Or working together to come up with a plan?
Yeah. I thought so.