Therapy can be a Mother’s little helper.
It is universally accepted that being a teenager is often painful and tough but what about the unacknowledged challenges of being a mother during those difficult years? Having to live with rejection, abuse, insults, and mocking- living in a constant state of aroused awareness and hyper-vigilance to ensure your beloved children are OK? The lioness never sleeps until she knows her cubs are safe.
It is not easy to cop to the fact that you don’t find things easy, that you loathe being yelled at, or made a figure of fun. At those times, it is a lonely and cruel job but someone has to do it.
As a mother, I can honestly say that it can be soul-destroying to witness the child or children that you have poured ALL your unconditional love, time, and energy into, make awful, self-destructive choices. Lying, not taking responsibility for their belongings, breaking promises, and turning suddenly aggressive or venomous; Harry Enfield’s Kevin seems like quite a likeable chap compared to the zombie flesh eater that has often crept out of my teenage son’s bedroom. Worse, it is highly contagious! I have found myself so antagonised and exasperated that my head has nearly exploded, tears rolling down my cheeks. I have been shouted at and blamed for ‘EVERYTHING’ and thanked for ‘NOTHING.’ I have often questioned how I got here, because I genuinely am baffled at what I am doing wrong.
It is a very natural instinct to want to give my children all that I didn’t have, lovely things and holidays, but too much is not always the Holy Grail and sometimes less is more in a world where we are engulfed by social media and perfect airbrushed lives and where opulent neglect is rife, yet seductive. Money and material wealth drowns us in dissatisfaction, yet is worshiped like a deity. It is so hard to say no, when all the other parents are saying yes. You know only too well how cruel life can be and you don’t want your child to be the odd one out, you want them to belong. The wheels on the bus go round and round and the only winner is omnipotent children and teenagers that are gasping for air and the next hit, whatever that may be. You say yes when you mean no even when your instinct tells you giving in may not be the best possibility.
It’s all too true that as a mother you feel responsible for their every move. You want to take care of them and having everything you say thrown back in your face is not easy, nor is living in the wake of their chaos and the rip curl of their abuse. All the books may tell you that it is a rite of passage of and a developmental phase as you separate and wish them love on their way but it can still be lonely and incredibly painful. It is so hard to be honest with your friends and those parents that seem to have the rule book locked down when you feel such shame and despair, when yet another evening meal has erupted into a screaming match and the family feels ruptured and beyond repair.
And this is where therapy can help. It is incredibly helpful and cathartic to air the hurt, anger, and dread and at times to express the rage that is so contrary to the powerful love that you feel toward your son or daughter. I work with a lot of adolescent kids and I listen to their struggles attentively as they open up but parents often feel that they can’t have a voice, they can’t find the space to explore their own struggles around feelings of lost identity, inadequacy, hurt, disappointment and powerlessness.
I would encourage any parent that is struggling with these challenges to take the time to see a therapist to help clear their mind and work things out. It is a uniquely safe, non-judgemental space where there is time to think about yourself, to express and release painful feelings. In fact, it can be essential to the wellbeing of the entire family.
Parents coming to see me often feel wretched and hopeless and believe that despite their dedication and love they are doing a bad job and subsequently are bad people. It is so important to recognise how hard it can be to have your child turn against you and fall into self-destructive patterns, so important to be re-assured, to talk and process those feelings. Left inside and unprocessed they can be damaging and totally demoralising. This process can start the healing process and you can find perspective, regain lost confidence and self-worth. Healthy boundaries can be established and struggling parents can learn to forgive themselves- for being only human.