When hard times roll through in your life with children and teens, sometimes the only thing parents can do is hang on and ride them out.
Few of us as parents get an easy path to walk is this journey of raising children. Some have kids with health issues that take them to the brink of life and death, and other teens will develop a desire to risk it all in their own death wish. Somewhere in the middle are those who have a crumbling relationship with their youngster that is nothing but yelled words of hate and slammed doors.
Anyone who tells you parenting, particularly in the teen years is easy, clearly hasn’t been a parent or don’t know how blessed they’ve been.
Getting through hard times
When I think about the hard times I’ve faced as a parent, I think the worst thing about them is they just feel like they’re never going to end. The rest of your life starts to stand still and you just go through the motions of living. The pressure seems to make other things go wrong to, so that you seem to walk a precipice of near breaking point, rather than being able to step back from the cliff and have at least a little break.
If you are going through a difficult time, and it’s related to one of your kids, then here’s some things that have helped me cope:
- Hang on to even the tiniest shred of hope. Hope is a powerful mindset, emotion or motivator. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I know when times are tough, clinging to a belief that better things do lie ahead, that good things happen for good people, that your life does have a purpose… Hope helps you to do that clinging.
- Surround yourself with a couple of fellow hopers. When you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, sympathy isn’t what you need. Nor is people who don’t know how to help. In a particularly rough patch in our lives I was meant to have lunch with a couple of friends and texted them to say that I just couldn’t do it. They turned up with lunch anyway and gave me some space to lay my fears on the table and then challenged me to not give in. I know that was the day I nearly gave up, and I’ll always be indebted to those two friends for not giving up on our lunch.
- Don’t give in to fear. The problem with difficult times is that their resolution moves, so slowly there’s lots of time when you’re just waiting. That’s when fear can creep in and take over your thinking, undermining your hope. Just don’t let that fear get a foothold, even if you have to start talking to yourself and saying out loud that you’re not going to let fear take charge. Fear is a robber that steals what we have today by making us think about tomorrow. When life is really challenging, you don’t want to waste time on that.
- Just get through one day at a time. In the tough times, it’s alright to trim your sails and just get through today. It may be too difficult to make decisions about next week or next month, so just explain to others that you can’t think that far ahead or fudge that you’ll have to check your diary. There’s nothing wrong with living from one day to the next and just doing what you have to do to get through that one and get to bed at the end of it. Let tomorrow worry about itself.
- Let go of the blame game. It can be so easy to get caught up in blaming yourself for creating this situation or see yourself as part of the problem. Just don’t go there. No good can come from that sort of thinking. If you have done something wrong, then apologise and become part of the solution, but don’t beat yourself up. We are all human and all make mistakes, so forgive yourself.
- Don’t give up on your child. Until their last breathe or yours, just don’t give up on them. Keep loving them and doing what you can to help them through this time. I know that when kids are facing very difficult times that unconditional love and belief in them can be the only thing that gets them through.
- Let go of old things that don’t matter at the moment. In a crisis, your normal way of life will probably go out the door; just let it do that. One of the good things that does come out of a challenging time is your life is that later on you see how somethings that you thought were important, don’t really matter in the scheme of things. But when you’re in the thick of a challenge, just simplify life, let go of responsibilities outside of your home that you can’t carry right now and bunker down. You can sift through all that stuff later on.
- Look after yourself. When your family is going through a difficult time, it’s easy to focus on everyone around you and bury your own needs. Try not to do that. Find one thing to do for yourself, whether it’s taking a 30 minute walk most days or giving yourself a 10 minute break with a cup of tea on the deck. Again, don’t beat yourself up if you put on weight, buy more takeaway than usual, don’t get any exercise or lose touch with most of your friends. Be kind to yourself and take a few moments each day to think about what you’re doing amazingly well, given the circumstances.
Unfortunately most of us will experience hard times now and then. As a parent, the toughest of these are when we watch our children battle through something and all we can really do is stand on the sidelines and shout encouragement. Having been through one of these myself, I can honestly say that it was the worst experience of my life, but there are some things I’ve learned from it that I wouldn’t trade for anything now. These hard times become part of our story; part of who we are.
I’m not sure if you’re going through a hard time as you read this, but remember there are some great support lines out there you can ring and get some anonymous encouragement and some new ideas when you need them. Parentline is a great place to start and you can call them in Australia on 1300 30 1300.