I believe that the more self-aware we are as parents, the better we are at holding space for our young adults and allowing them the process of finding their way through this beautiful, hard, excruciating, and sweet gig of life. Our children's greatest desire and need is to be seen, known, and loved without fixing or judging. It means being more of a witness as a parent, listening intently, and creating a safe place to land for our young people.
At times, my inclination with my children is to want to shield them from the messiness of life. I somehow believe that I have the answers to many of their ails and if they would just follow my lead, all would be well. What I have come to learn, not always easily, is that my reactions to my children and where they are in their worlds has so much to do with my own stuff, and my need for feeling better. My own anxieties, motives, and judgments creep in, so instead of being a safe place to land, I run roughshod over them and their process. By doing this, I lose the magic of connecting with them and grounding them.
As I grow in my own self-awareness, I am leaning into allowing my children space to grow and evolve without having a set agenda of what I think they need to be to be okay. Their beings are less about me and more about them. Our tendency as parents is to believe that they are a reflection of us and our parenting, and I think to a certain degree that is true. But when it comes to figuring out the question Who Am I?, this is theirs to answer and ours to respect and hold space for them to explore. Instead of trying to fix our young wobbly insecure adults, or shield them from the struggle, or solve their problems because we think this will protect them from unnecessary pain, consider holding space for them and teaching them how to feel their feelings, go through the hard and messy, ask questions, and build a skill set to problem solve on their own. What about just letting them be unsure, angry, or sad, or scared and not doing anything to take it away, but to be with them as they figure it out. How about asking them Author Kelly Corrigan's goldmine of a question, "Tell me more..." This kind of opening allows for learning on both sides because we are communicating from a place of truly listening and seeing one another. It's not about fixing.
Teaching our children to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, to straddle the unknown, to feel the sad, to express the anger without exploding and inflicting pain on others, and to acknowledge the fear without covering it up is core to their wellness and emotional resiliency. Instead of fixing the hard, choose to listen instead. Ask questions. Hold them. Hang with them. Gently inquire about what is going on and help them process through their emotions. Do they want advice or support? Why are they feeling sad? Insecure? Angry? Unsure? What are the thoughts that they are having on repeat that are only perpetuating their feelings? Is there another thought that they can have that softens these feelings and allows for some relief? Tell me more...
We all desire our children to have confidence. Emotional resiliency. Connection. When you create a safe space for them to be seen, known, and loved, this is the gift of holding space.