This is not a well thought out post. I am just writing a general message based on what’s been on my mind recently. I feel like I am not the only parent out there to have been surprised to learn about their child’s self-harming until it was way too late to be an effective resource for their own child. I am still in the midst of it all so I cannot pretend to speak from the perspective of someone who has been there, worked through it and has golden advice. I am a work in progress, just like you are.
Believe it or not, self-harm is a thing that people do. Young teen girls have a slight numbers advantage over teen boys, so it is not fair to claim that it’s a girl thing.
You may believe that you don’t know anyone who would cut themselves (for example), but you may be surprised to find out the opposite.
People who self-harm will keep it a secret, most especially when they believe that they cannot tell you. They’re not looking for judgement, criticism or to be corrected when they do tell someone. If you want to know if anyone in your life self-harms you must first make it known that you’re not going to have a negative reaction to learning about it.
And if you do find yourself learning that your child has done it, your response simply must come from a position of love and support, and absolutely cannot come from admonishment nor scrutiny.
I am not someone who has ever intentionally hurt myself and it does not appeal to me, but I do know of others who have/do. I cannot relate to the thoughts that lead people to hurting themselves, but I don’t need to. What I need to do is ensure these people know that my love for them is real and that I am going to support them in getting the proper help, without judgement.
It is a long and difficult road for everyone and there is no room for us to bring along our negative baggage. I don’t know how to advise anyone to bring this up in their home without it coming off as a witch hunt, but it one of those things that should be addressed sooner than later. Find a way. If you have success, please share you story with someone.
Last night my boy, almost 3, woke up and came to our room talking about Mamá. He was fully alert, but we put him in our bed with us hoping he’d pass back out because it was close to midnight. He was too awake to fall back asleep quickly though. As he laid there trying, he would pop up suddenly start talking about his deep, random thoughts. I feigned sleep to encourage him to keep trying, and to my surprise he did keep trying.
After some time he started sitting up, looking around the darkened room, laying back down, then sitting up again to feel for me. When he found me he leaned forward and kissed me. He first got my shoulder, on the blanket, then he tried again and got my shoulder on my skin. He laid back down and continued feeling around for me. He found my beard and rubbed it so gently for a moment, then sat up and kissing me on my cheek. I couldn’t help it; I grabbed his head and kissed him back! I thought he’d really start talking now that I had enthusiastically confirmed that I was awake, but he just laid back down and put his hand on my shoulder.
A few moments later he rolled away and then I passed out.
This is the sweetest child I’ve ever met. He never fails to impress me.
You can’t really take my word too seriously on this topic because I seem to have lost my ability to talk to my kids. People always warned me from the moment my daughter was born that the teen years would be hell, and when the second one came along people found it amusing to point out just how much trouble I was in for. Hearing comments like that were laughable, and over time they angered me because I felt it was pretty obvious that I had a great relationship with my girls. To me, those people were flat out wrong. At least it were wrong at the time. That is until around the age of 8 (or thereabouts), for both of them. I once read that 8 years old is when girls start to diverge from their parents’ way of thinking – when they begin flexing their individuality, and that held true in my house. They began to really express their individual personalities at that time, and that was hard to deal with. I’ll admit that I didn’t deal with it very well, because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I was also out of the country for five months around this time, and custody was split 50/50. Enough complications? Ugh.
I have found that the harder I try to hang onto what we once had the worse it becomes. That relationship is gone. Those little girls are gone. They’re young women now and they don’t have the same wants and needs anymore, so for me –the same guy, mostly– to continue on with them as though they’re still 8 (or younger) is a disservice to them. And to me. I have to adapt as they mature.
I read a book called “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that I found very helpful. I ran into an article on yourtango.com today that reminded me of that book, and inspired me to write this post. If you don’t have time for the book, the article summarizes many of the principles very well. If I could condense it even further, I’d say this:
Shut up and LISTEN to what your kids have to say.
While you’re listening the only thing you should be thinking about is how what they’re telling you is –aside from paying attention, obviously– this question, “How does this make her feel?”
Kids are new – they don’t know until their taught. If you can identify how they’re feeling, say it as a sympathetic statement, or ask directly. If you translate their feelings into words they are now more equipped to express and eventually process (deal with) those feelings.
One of the challenges for the adult mind to deal with in these situations is to shut up. For us the problems kids deal with are simple, easy to solve or avoid, and largely inconsequential. We could easily deal with them in their shoes, but only if we had our adult brain and lifetime of experience. They don’t have those, so remember that. What they feel is real, regardless of your perception of it. To them, their feelings are their world; don’t deny them.
Almost 3 years have passed since my beautiful wife delivered her first child (my third). a sweet little boy. In that short time he has grown into the happiest little guy I’ve ever seen. He is affectionate, sensitive, very bright, observant, strangely obedient, and of course he has more energy than the sun!
Thinking about how he is developing so well really strikes me and I find myself in awe, daily. Clearly it is not my doing! There are certain circumstances required for a child to reach his potential, such as being guided through life by someone who shows him love, affection and kindness all day, every day. He needs someone to give him firm boundaries, to read to him (in two languages, no less), to explore his world with him, to teach him manners and right from wrong. Someone who places more importance on his well-being than their own personal interests. Someone with the patience to hold him while he cries for hours on end, for seemingly no reason.
That person isn’t me, even though this is my 3rd time around the block. The only person who fits this description is Mamá. She does this without enough sleep, without any experience, and without complaint. One day isn’t enough.
¡Feliz día de las Madres!
MAN I’m jealous of my kids in that that I cannot be an Air Cadet, too!
Seriously. Look what they can do that I cannot:
I can’t get a free (and nice) uniform that instantly commands respect.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in musical band.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in drill routines.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in marksmanship (rifles).
I can’t take part in free weekly training in aerospace technology.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in Meteorology.
I can’t take part in free powered and non-powered glider training.
I can’t get my pilot’s licence for free (high achievers get this sponsored).
I can’t go flying for free, twice per year.
I can’t go to free summer courses that PAY ME to learn new skills.
I can’t decorate that uniform with pins that signify my membership in a world class respected organization.
I can’t decorate that uniform with patches for completing challenging courses.
I can’t decorate that uniform with rank badges that signify my hard work and dedication.
I can’t do all these things during my (long gone) teen years earning me tremendous respect from my family and community, leveraging the opportunities that this generates into a fulfilling future.
No, I can’t. They can.
What I could do is join the armed forces —giving up my ability to earn money — to enter training, be away from my family until that’s completed, then move away to a new city to complete mandatory placements. Someone has a better deal here and you’re damned right I’m jealous about it. I didn’t learn anything important until it was too late. The Cadet program would have made me so much better, so much sooner.
The good news is that my girls will not follow my poorly chosen footsteps.
UPDATE, 2016-05-02: I learned from a trusted source that there is a way for me to do quite a few of those things that I complain so maturely about, above. So interesting to see how this unfolds now…
Each morning I quietly sneak into the kitchen and grab my lunch bag, trying not to wake the little one. In that lunch bag I find breakfast ready to go, with a heart carefully drawn on the ziplock bag. Sometimes there’s a more direct message of “I love you” written on tin foil, depending on what breakfast is that morning. In fact, most of the wrappings have something written on them, and even the plastic containers have been marked with little messages.
Later in the day when I’m sitting at my desk, hungry, I reach for my lunch bag and find that it also contains a variety of containers all prepared the night before. Sometimes there’s a salad, with things like nuts, peppers, tomatoes, and things I don’t even understand, added in. Inside the salad container there is always a salad dressing waiting in its own little container. Other times I find things like alll of the ingredients needed for real Mexican tacos, including sliced limes, diced onions and cilantro – everything individually packaged so that nothing gets soggy or mixed too soon. Sometimes the tortillas are home-made! That’s not all – I’ve even found baked salmon with rice and green olives waiting for me!
Snacks are always included: sometimes it’s the traditional chocolate chip cookies, or a healthier choice of mixed nuts & berries, or a quick apple or banana. When I am really lucky there are M&Ms, straight from the freezer (because I like them frozen)!
When it is up to me things are very different. My choices are a quick and dirty toast with butter for breakfast and peanut butter & jam sandwiches for lunch. And the cookies – I don’t deny myself the cookies! So, to be treated to this level of consideration and careful preparation is more than I could hope to ask for. And I don’t ask for it – it just happens. The only other time I’ve been so cared for was when my loving mother was taking care of me as an incompetent, unaware, (and possibly thankless) little kid.
This is what my wife does for me each day. I’ve thought about it for some time and I cannot find that point in our marriage where I did something that deserved me such a selfless and loving woman at my side. When I find out what it is I am going to be obligated to write a book about it so that others can experience a relationship as awesome as this one is. But, until then, I will settle for showing her my sincere appreciation, and bragging to everyone at work how awesome my lunches are.
I literally FORCED my daughters to join the Effective Speaking program in their Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. One of them was easier to force than the other, and one of them was more persistent about getting out of it, once in. –Nah, I’m not gonna say which one that was. Despite the challenges they brought to me, and that they faced, I am proud to say that I’m impressed with their performances.
My eldest urged everyone in the room to become the best version of themselves with a motivational speech about her first time piloting a plane at 12 years old, which was another thing I forced her to do, lol. Her younger sister brought a pair of tears to my eye with her heart-penetrating speech about the importance of becoming an organ donor, finishing it off with an affirmation that she has already decided to become one herself.
They pushed themselves way outside of their comfort zones, and made two very passionate speeches in front of 11 cadets (2 of whom are Warrant Officers, 2nd Class), 2 Officers (one of whom is a Captain and an actual pilot), the SSC’s treasurer, and a single set of parents. At the end of it all the speakers received feedback from the Captain and their Squadran WOII, making it a great experience for me, and likely the cadets, too, whether they realize it or not.
Today I learned, yet again, that there is always –always– so much more to everyone we meet than what we think. These 7 kids prepared and delivered 14 great speeches, revealing insights into how their minds work,, how they perceive the world they live in, and demonstrating the time and effort they put into them. Despite public speaking being one of the biggest fears for most people, these kids all wanted to win. They all wanted to do well. They all wanted each other to do well, too, which I was really impressed by.
The cadets running the event were not paid to be there. The SSC’s treasurer was not paid to be there. And none of the officers were paid to be there. How many kids, adults, accountants or professional pilots do you think would give up their Saturday to operate a speaking competition and give their sincere advice – for free? These are the kinds of people I want my kids to associate with. These are the kinds of people I want my kids to be inspired by. This selflessness in community service is what the Air Cadets brings to our lives, and I am grateful for them.
Greet them, learn their names, teach their children English, give them a tour of our great land – show them why Canada is so great and why canadians are loved all over the world.
You have a choice to demonstrate what it means to be human, rather than be part of the cycle of hatred the media pushes.
I saw this poster on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing, but as I prepared to re-post it I thought that I’d put my spin on it, because maybe I have some OK enough ideas.