Kids are different no matter how similarly you raise them. Blame it on differences in genetics from generations before, or how they were incubated in the womb, kids just turn out differently and as result it requires a whole host of parenting skills to raise them up into emotionally mature adults.
I was working the other day with a conscientious mother who had a very difficult daughter. For whatever reason, her daughter tends to be controlling and bossy and often times mean. I encouraged this woman to take her daughter to a professional so that this child would have an opportunity to share her feelings with a neutral person with absolutely no repercussions. Mom has begun to see some mild changes in her daughter's behavior, yet she continues to be puzzled and frustrated because she can't read her emotions. It would appear that the family lost their cat of 18 years and Susie did not act affected in the least. Obviously this lead mother to fear that her daughter did not own the “compassion gene” for a family member that has lived with Susie all her life. Mom who is prone to anxiety felt badly for the recently deceased cat but also for her daughter who was missing out on real compassion and loyalty. Later that night as she was walking up the stairs, she heard sniffles only to be surprised that her daughter was sobbing about the dead cat. As you can imagine mother comforted her child, and as she did she felt a sense of relief that her daughter indeed possessed a healthy dose of grief and sadness.
Do you have at least one child who is hard to read? A child who has difficulty expressing emotions? A child who may appear to lack healthy emotions?
Don't despair, this takes an extra dose of patience and consistency when dealing with your child. Spend extra time sharing how other people feel to make sure that your child develops empathy and understanding. Combine this with a healthy dose of role modeling so that your child hears how you feel about situations both at home and in the neighborhood. That may require that you share when you're feeling hurt, angry, sad, or even scared.
Parents show good role modeling skills when they share their own vulnerabilities and feelings and match them up with healthy problem-solving skills like the following:
I'm angry with my boss because she wants me to stay late to finish this report. I guess I'll have to turn this around in my own head and realize that sometimes you have to work extra hard to get a difficult project done.
Or I'm sad that Aunt Karen hasn't called me for a really long time and I'm tired of always being the one to call her. I suppose I'm going to have to be the bigger person and see myself as a connector and do the calling because if I don’t … I won't get to find out about Aunt Karen and your cousins.
When children are exposed to healthy problem-solving it can further their ability to apply it in their lives.
Parenting is difficult. What works at one developmental stage does not necessarily work in another. What works for one child does not necessarily work for his or her sibling. But there are some universal skills that you can teach and display to know that you're making a healthy investment in increasing coping skills forever!
Carol Juergensen Sheets, LCSW PCC is a psychotherapist and personal life coach. SHe does motivational speaking and empowerment trainings locally and nationally. To find out more about her services, contact her at www.carolthecoach.com or call her at 317-218-3479. You can watch Carol the Coach segments on WTHR's Channel 13 Wednesdays at 12:50PM.