No More Tragedies
I coach a couple who questioned if perhaps, they were expecting too much from their 7th grade son.
In the summer following 5th grade their son wanted a cell phone. With promises and hope they agreed that he would earn a phone when he mastered keeping his grades above a specified level and going to bed and getting up on time without being prompted.
More than a year later, and still not meeting the requirements, their son was angry and frustrated. He accused his parents of treating him unfairly and not getting it. He claimed he’s the only one who doesn’t have a phone. And he asserted that he misses out, is left out and sticks out!
This outcry triggered his parents to question the emotional and social fallout. They wanted to do the right thing, but what it was wasn’t clear. They fretted over the only options they saw: give in and get him a phone or dive deeper and insist that he meet the expectations.
That’s when they contacted me. After some discussion we crafted a plan.
They reassured their son that the three of them still share the same goal of him getting a phone. They reminded him that they believe in him and understand that he feels left out. They asked him to articulate ideas of what he could do differently to improve his grades and master his end of day and morning tasks. And they encouraged him to ask for help and promised to support him in every way possible.
By handing the problem-solving steps to their son and being emotionally sensitive, their son devised strategies that he made work. His parents’ approach was the boost he needed to re-engage and shift his focus to action and away from anger.
Next up on his parents’ agenda is collaborating with their son on phone use and responsibility.
You may have watched the tragic story of Alexandra Valoras, a high school junior. She was on track to attend a prestigious university, and appeared motivated and happy to her parents, teachers, and friends. Shockingly, Alexandra jumped to her death from an overpass near her home.
Beyond grief stricken, her parents, Alysia and Dean were also blindsided. They had seen no signs that their beautiful daughter was in pain. Alexandra wrote about her self-loathing, shame, and hopelessness in the pages of her diaries that she’d left for them to find. While alive she’d shared her desperation with no one..
We sympathize and mourn with Alysia and Dean, their children, and the far too many other families that grieve from the nightmare of suicide. As our hearts ache with theirs, we are more frightened than ever because suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year-old males and females in the U.S.
We’ve learned from Alexandra. We understand that behavior is based on what we believeto be true about ourselves. We know that neither success nor high achievement can be used to gauge emotional stability. And we accept that the quest for perfection is often littered with confusion and self-destruction.
It’s important that we create comfortable conversations with our children for them to express their emotions, both the joys and the disappointments. Our goal is to let them know that they are safe sharing every feeling and concern with us. We must embrace the reality that emotional struggles are real, but they don’t define the person. And we must lovingly accept and stand with our family members, friends, and their children who need and receive care.
We need to remind ourselves that we honor our children by listening to understand them. Listening requires that we stop doing and thinking so that we can give them our full attention. And, it means empathizing, not judging or fixing or telling our story. Listening is the gift we give that connects us to our children.
It is terribly complicated to be the parent of an adolescent, but even more perplexing being one. Be assured that by your love, faith, and wisdom you influence, inspire and empower your child. I believe in you and admire the relationship you nurture with your child every day.
Click here to learn more about Alexandra’s story and Alysia and Dan Valoras commitment to suicide prevention.