How to give space to your child?
Created by Shikha Batra Updated on Dec 02, 2020
“I need some space!” doesn’t this sound like a broken record once your child is a tween and is soon going to be a teenager? Isn’t their desire for more privacy justified? Isn’t seeking space a natural part of growing up? Why do parents overreact when their child who is at the threshold of becoming a teenager needs his/her parents less than before?
‘Parenting is like trying to stand up in a hammock and not spill your lemonade.’
I like this metaphor as parenting is not easy and one of the biggest challenges for moms and dads is letting go of your children as they get older. The knee-jerk reaction of tightening your child’s noose can cause more harm than good. It can backfire and can get defiance as a response from children at that stage of life. However, sometimes giving space is the best thing you can give to your children as when the child starts separating from his/her parents they figure out who they are as individuals. It is an important milestone because it means they are getting ready to learn how to live in the world on their own.
No matter how great a parent you have been and howsoever good your parenting skills are, at some point, your child will pull away from you and seek psychological autonomy. At this stage they find peers more important as compared to parents as they feel parents won’t understand them as well as their peers would as they have surpassed that age long back and that generation gap would be a barrier. This can be a hard pill for parents to swallow. But what we need to understand is, this is not about us, it’s about our children. We should try and not do disservice to our children by failing to separate our experience from theirs. We ought to stop making assumptions that they’ll repeat our mistakes as we project our history onto their future.
Here are some ways to help your child expand his boundaries in a way that works for both of you.
Avoid taking it personally : Sometimes children in a fit of rage say things which can be hard to digest. Taking it personally would not only make things difficult for two of you but would also make the gap difficult to bridge. That also doesn’t mean we should ignore their unacceptable behaviour. It may mean we must be open to their feedback, and offer them the space they need to get through their feelings with strength and resilience.
Avoid making unrealistic rules: It’s a profound period when a child is making transition from being a child to a teenager and parents’ worry is justified as they are concerned about their child’s future and want everything to be smooth. However, this doesn’t mean they would validate their concern by setting unrealistic rules that would make the children feel untrusted or intruded on. Instead parents should create natural realistic boundaries for their children thereby making them feel secure and also this would mean offering them the space and respect they need to develop.
Adopt collaborative parenting technique: This emphasizes communication, negotiation, compromise and an inclusive approach rather than the ”Do as i say!” authoritarian approach. The power of negotiation and its potential in creating future communication pathways for more elaborate and nuanced compromises cannot be ignored. Children and teenagers feel good when they know more than their parents. Asking them to explain their ideas gives them such an opportunity besides it fosters real communication and allows us to listen and understand what’s going on in our child’s mind.
Offer them unconditional support when they reach out: When we give space to our children it doesn’t mean we have shunned them altogether. They still need a lot of support and guidance from us and to validate their decisions. We should let them know we are there for them whenever they need our support and they can without any hesitation discuss with us whatever they wish to. Also to avoid any heartbreaks we should be aware they might not need us as much as they used to but that should not make our love for them any less.
Spend time with them by taking advantage of the time we already have: As children grow up their desire to spend time with their friends increases. So instead of begging them to take out time for you, consider time while driving them to school, or to the dentist's clinic, or to a hobby class as an opportunity to talk to them.
Befriend your child’s friends: Your child’s friends are a key to a healthy relationship with your own child so don’t hate them for taking your child away from you rather befriend them and take interest in their lives.
Value and respect their choices: Being open-minded and accepting their changing needs and demands as part of growing up, we are leaving the pathways of communication open. By doing so we value and respect them as individuals in their current lives. So we no longer need to cringe at the outfits they wish to wear or on their decision to get purple hair, or the parties they wish to attend or feel angry when they discuss their crushes or dating with us.
The very best thing we can do for our children is to work on ourselves, update ourselves with changing times, to separate their needs and experiences from our own and accept them for who they are as separate and unique individuals. This evolution can be yet another rewarding lesson for us and will help us learn how to love them unconditionally, respect them as individuals, find a middle path to deal with differences and yet coexist peacefully with them.