By Philip Chang, Centre for Fathering
Father: “All I ever want is for my teen to be happy. Why is it so difficult?”
Teen: “I want to quit school coz I am not interested in it?”
Father: “No. You must go to school coz you will then get good grades and have a good job and be happy.”
Teen: “No I don’t need to go to school to be happy and why worry about the future now?”
Parent: “You are too young to understand. Just go to school and be happy.”
Teenager: “I am not happy. I don’t want to go to school.”
Here is a test of two wills. Both father and teen assume they are talking about the same thing but there’s no emotional connection. A more congruent communication is for the father to come alongside the teen and emotionally walk through the difficulties and struggles that lie behind this expressed desire to quit school.
Father: “I need you to study hard and pass your exams even if you don’t enjoy school because it is important to us that you get a good educational grounding.”
Teen: “But I hate school and exams. It’s too stressful and the teachers are bad.”
Father: “Alright sounds like you are struggling with school. Let’s go down the list and hear out your complaints. Then we can see how we can leverage the good stuff you have in school to get through the bad stuff.”
The key here is to give your child the emotional support he needs when he is struggling. Below is a brief summary of steps to giving emotional support to your child:
- Help the child identify her difficulty or dislike head on and not avoid it with your full present support so she does not feel alone. Don’t fix the problem for her.
- Point out the positive assets even as the child relates her struggle. This may include resources like friends, tutor, past successes and so on to empower your child. Avoid criticisms that are indicated by words like “should” and “must”.
- Encourage the child to apply the new found resources and let her tell you what would change if she did so.
- Walk through her difficulties with a view that she has the power to overcome and be happy.
Parents need to know that we can never protect our children from the difficulties of life but we can do the more important thing of empowering them to face them with emotional support.
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