In this issue, we look at the sixth step of the series for parents on how to empower and launch your child into adulthood. The key point from our introduction was that the underlying goal of healthy parenting is to prepare sons and daughters to be self-reliant, independent individuals who are at home on this planet and in the culture in which they plan to live.
6. Hold the vision of your child becoming a healthy adult.
Those who live extraordinary lives have gone through a rite of passage or initiation into "authentic adulthood". They have discovered a vision or purpose for their lives. They have an inner compass or mission which directs and feeds them. New initiates need to have mentors - Elders and parents - who have made the journey and can support them. Otherwise, the young person may abort the passage and remain in a type of unsatisfied adolescence.
Deep transitions, ones that move a person from one developmental phase to the next, include a dis-integration and re-integration process (caterpillar to butterfly or nymph to dragonfly). It can feel scary. All of the transitional emotions (sometimes considered negative emotions) like anger, fear, and self-doubt seem to bubble to the surface.
People in transition, whether young or old, can feel like they are going crazy. (This can also drive unsuspecting parents crazy). It is easier to act out or turn to addictions rather than face the tension of this "transforming fire". It is made even more difficult because of the cultural drive for "relief" and quick fixes.
True developmental phases are neither easy, nor quick, and are filled with real danger. They are also not linear in their progression. It is an inward process with much spiraling, and backwards and forward motions. It is out of this chaos that the new energy needed to become the next phase of "human being" is released into the psyche.
It can be challenging not to get lost in your child's struggle in becoming who they are. This struggle is a primary role of adolescence. Even as we write this, we realize how difficult this parental suggestion might be. Why? Because you are also in transition.
So what does it mean to hold the vision for someone else? Believe your child's life has purpose and this messy transition is their path to discovering it. You do not need to know their vision in order to hold a space for them to discover and incorporate it. You are not leading this journey; it is theirs. You are providing moral support, suggestions and some protection in ways that do not disempower or rescue from meaningful lessons. If you were not successfully mentored into adulthood, this will be difficult.
You, as the parent, hold the expectations of past generations and sometimes the current culture. Your own example of success, or lack of it, is also influential in the child's beliefs of what they are capable of becoming. Many times, your role is to release them from spoken and unspoken expectations so that they can find their own voice and their own vision, apart from yours.
As we mentioned in past articles, your greatest gift is your love for them as a person, just as they are and in what they are going through. This is especially felt and appreciated by them when you give them your full attention and time. It will be helpful to them if you are working on your own individuation process; you become a model to emulate.
Criticism, skepticism and negativity kill vision. When all your energy is focused on their limitations, it makes it hard for them to believe in themselves. Try not to see them as a diagnosis or illness, or believe that they are the problem and need to be fixed. Realize that if your child is actively using drugs and alcohol they are avoiding the transition. They have moved from one dependency to another. In this case, you want to seek intervention before moving forward.
The livelihood and regeneration of our culture depends upon people successfully moving through these transitions. This is how a culture is regenerated. Our children hold the seeds of what our civilization is to become and they need our support to flourish.
As mentors, Elders and parents, we are the tenders of the seed. If we have found our own "vision", a life that inspires and replenishes our soul, we will know how to hold the space for this flower to come to seed, this human to discover their own vision for living.
Part of the problem is that your child did not come in a seed package with a picture of the mature plant on the cover. There weren't instructions on the back for what environment would best meet their needs.
The journey to self is difficult. It is even harder for those whose natural genius and gifts have not been supported in this culture. Be interested without taking over. Teach them to think, feel, explore, create and solve their own problems. Guide them in taking over their own life by seeking what inspires them instead of choosing methods of escape.
About the Authors:
Randy and Colleen Russell direct Parent Workshops for Empowering Young Adults and lead workshops and coaching for families and individuals. For more information call 208-255-2290 or visit www.empoweringyoungadults.com.