I learned a valuable lesson this week. My teenaged daughter was struggling with something that was tapping in to her anxiety. On Monday morning she called me to her room to let me know that she wasn’t feeling well enough to go to school. She acknowledged that the illness was likely grounded in anxiety, and she requested to stay home from school to work through it and get back on track. I shared my fears and concerns about her desire to stay in bed and left her to go back to sleep.
Since starting on my Conscious Parenting journey I’ve been working hard to really listen to my kids, try to understand what’s driving their reactions and behaviors, and respond in a helpful, approachable way. I’ve also been intentional about helping my children understand my reactions to our interactions and the emotions I’m experiencing in the moment. I’m practicing being vulnerable with them. The idea is, if we both understand where the other is coming from, we can work toward a solution that works for both of us.
A couple of hours later I went to check on my daughter, and she was getting dressed to go in late to school. She said that, because of the things I’d said, she felt she had to go to school, or I would be disappointed and upset with her. Ouch! That was not what I had been shooting for!
Here’s where the first lesson comes in. My timing was off. My daughter was not in a place emotionally where she could hear my vulnerabilities and not drop in to taking care of/wanting to please me. While my honesty and vulnerability would be useful in the long run, I needed to wait until the “crisis” had passed for her. My job, as her parent, was to give her the space to get on stable ground and then incorporate my own reactions.
Now for the second lesson. It’s all right to go back and say, “I messed up earlier. I didn’t send the right message. I’d like to try again.” I made it clear that I trust my daughter to take responsibility for managing her anxiety in a way that works for her. At the same time, she must demonstrate that she’ll make the effort to do what works for her. What I don’t want either of us to do is to behave in a way that isn’t genuine because we’re trying to please the other.
My daughter did end up going to school, and the day improved from there. We both grew that day, and I look forward to our continued growth, both individually and together.