Something Hurting Parents Can Do

Focus on the Family recently asked 5,000 adults what they wished their parents had done differently during times of conflict, they gave these three responses most often:

  1. They wished their parents had listened more.
  2. They wished they could have talked about feelings more.
  3. They wished they had talked to their parents more.

They point out that all three of those involve aspects of communication.

“And as this list suggests, good communication during conflict begins with listening and not with searching for solutions.  Men especially tend to pay little attention to what their loved ones are saying, concentrating instead on trying to fix the problem.”  As a mom, I know there were plenty of times I didn’t listen very well, rather was quick to correct, discipline or lecture.

Ouch!  This hurts but it is so insightful.  I think we can probably all agree that we need to work on our communication skills and learn to be better listeners, especially when we are going through difficult times with our children.  Who doesn’t want to be listened to instead of lectured or yelled at?  I don’t like it when someone is too quick to “fix me”.  I bet you don’t like it, either.  How must our children feel?

Sometimes they make us so angry or they hurt us so deeply, if we were really honest we might admit that we don’t really care too much about their feelings (at least in the heat of the moment, or right after the latest crisis).  What about our feelings?  Of course down deep we really do care about their feelings, but finding the opportunity to listen well can be challenging, too.

We’re busy.  We’re tired.  We’re not in the mood.  They’re busy.  They’re tired.  They aren’t in the mood.  Maybe they don’t even live with you anymore.  That makes it even harder, doesn’t it?

According to a Focus on the Family article, the heart of the matter is just that . . . their heart!  Contrary to popular belief to listen and communicate well you don’t have to understand a person’s words.  That’s what I tend to do.  You need to understanding the feelings behind their words.  We need to develop the skill of going beyond their words to get to their hearts , discovering their real concerns, their “emotional message”.  We have to ask ourselves What is my son/daughter feeling?   We have to learn to ask good questions that will draw them out.  Then we need to be ready to keep our mouths shut, and listen.  Really listen.

When was the last time you did that?

Ask God to help you stop trying so hard to solve their problems or fix them. Instead, ask him to help you connect with their heart so they will feel cared for.  That works for me!  Ask him for opportunities for these conversations to happen. You may need to get a little creative.  My husband would invite our daughter out for a cup of coffee or we would have her over for a meal (when she did not live at home).

Maybe you can practice with friends, co-workers or your spouse?  As we make the effort to listen better, I believe our children will notice it.  They will feel more cared for.

I want to improve in this area.  I hope you do, too.  This is something we can do that really will help!  I don’t think I will ever regret becoming a better listener.  It can help me in all of my relationships.

Heavenly Father, you are a master communicator and such an amazing listener.  You sure have a lot of people in the world to listen to.  Show us how to improve our listening and communication skills.  Teach us.  Guide us.  Give us the wisdom and insight we so desperately need to connect with our children’s hearts.  We cannot do this on our own.  It is too hard.  We are relying completely on you.  Thank you that you care even about this. 

A series of books that helps parents connect better with their children has been written by Sharon Hersch.  Mom, I Hate My Life is one that I have read and found very helpful.  Another on communication in general is Getting Beyond How Are You? by David Mains and Melissa Mains  (a father/daughter team).

Here are a few Bible verses that I find helpful on this topic:

“He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame.”  (Proverbs 18:13)

“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”  (Psalms 147: 5)

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry . . .”  (James 1: 19)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all . . .and it will be given to him.”  (James 1: 5)



A Question Parents in Pain Need to Ask Themselves

If your son or daughter is rebelling, experimenting with drugs or alcohol, is already an addict, suffers from a mental illness (bipolar, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia), engages in any form of self-harm (cutting, burning, etc.), has anorexia or bulimia, is expecting a child and is not married, has been in jail or prison (or is there now), has been suicidal (attempted suicide) or struggles with their sexual identity/has a sex addiction(pornography, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) then you need to ask yourself the following question . . .

How well are you taking care of yourself?

If you are anything like me when you are going through times of tension, stress, trauma and heartache you tend to get caught up in surviving to the next day, the next moment.  You are simply coping to the best of your ability.  You are doing all you can to hold yourself together and keep functioning.  I tend to stay up too late and then not sleep very well.  I either forget to eat or can’t eat due to having no appetite.  I don’t want to exercise.  I begin to isolate.  I try to work harder and do more to distract my thoughts.  Or I work less and let things slide.  My relationships suffer, too.  I ignore my own self-care.  In a way it’s because I don’t care about those things at that point.  They seem so unimportant compared to what I am dealing with.  At the time when I most need to take good care of ourselves I tend to do the opposite.

And if it’s been going on for a long time in your life – – weeks, months, years — you may have developed some pretty damaging coping strategies.  You may have become quite unhealthy.  You have been consumed with your child.  You may have become a martyr.  You put yourself at the end of the list of those needing care.  You are thinking about everyone else, not yourself.  You would probably like to have a full-blown pity party.  However, if you sent out invitations no one would come.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of neglecting yourself!  Give yourself the same TLC you would give anyone else going through a season of trials and troubles.  If you don’t, I promise you, it will take a toll on you.  Instead, you need to be as healthy as possible.  It really will help you cope better.

Here are a few suggestions:  Get adequate rest.  Take a nap if you can.  Go to bed a little earlier.  Make yourself get some exercise – at least get some fresh air.  Be sure you are eating 3 meals a day and having healthy snacks.  Drink more water.  If it’s been a long time,  go see your doctor for a check-up.  See a counselor.  Go to a support group meeting.  Slow down.  Simplify your life.  Do less.  Be kind to yourself.  Do what renews you.  Read something uplifting.  Spend some quiet time with God.  Go have some fun.  Engage in one of your hobbies (if you have one) or pursue one you have never had the time for.  When was the last time you laughed?  Watch a funny movie you know you enjoy.  Maybe invite a friend or two to join you.

We focus so much of our time and energy on our beloved, troubled child that we often forget about ourselves.  Mom — dad — You are important, too!  As Al-Anon says, if you put out some extra effort to strengthen yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually “it can make a difficult time a little easier.”

Here are a few Bible verses that came to my mind as I was typing this:

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”  (Pslam 54: 4)

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”  (Psalm 55: 22)

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”  (Psalm 105: 4)

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”  (Psalm 119: 28)