The Globe and Mail article ‘The Disintegration of the Parent-Child Bond’ has been getting a lot of buzz since it was published yesterday. And while I agree with the author on the importance of a strong parent-child bond, I’m not sure the influence on my children by their peers is a new phenomenon.
The author writes “some [teens] are more concerned about what their peers think than what their parents think”. In any given situation, I’d venture my kids know exactly what I would think of their actions, much as I knew what my parents thought of my actions. But what’s new to them, as they become more independent, is finding out what the rest of the world thinks.
When our kids are first born, close to 100% of their waking hours are spent under the direct influence of their parents. By the time they walk out the door to kindergarten, the time directly under their parents’ influence has dropped to 50%. And when you further factor in extra-curricular activities and sports, that drops even more.
So it’s not surprising that teens are concerned by what their peers think; their peers are who they’re spending most of their day with.
I disagree with the author that, in all arrangements for your child, connecting with adults should always be a higher priority than same-age peers, academics or after-school activities. I spend a lot of time with our children and certainly, that matters. But the quantity over quality argument is a little weak for me.
I don’t want my children to be exposed to fewer experiences, people and opinions in order that we might have a strong parent-child bond. I want them to embrace those experiences, people and opinions because we have a strong bond, because they’re loved and accepted and because they know that, when they need it, they have my husband and I to support them in figuring out what it all means.I don’t want my children to be exposed to fewer experiences, people and opinions in order that we might have a strong bond. I want them to embrace those experiences, people and opinions because we have a strong bond. Click To Tweet
While my kids are out in the world surrounded by teachers, coaches, friends and peers, my hope is that they move through their day knowing they are unconditionally loved, accepted and supported by the mom who kissed them goodbye in the morning and the dad who asks about the best and worst parts of their day as they drive home from soccer practice that night.
The bigger question then appears to be how to instill that sense of love and acceptance when they’re spending more of their waking hours with people other than me.
The most obvious way to me is being available to have the tough/authentic/raw conversations in the time we make for it – when the lights are out at bedtime or when it’s just the two of us in the car. It’s not only hearing about their day but talking about how it hurts when people are mean and situations are unfair.
And then doing every little thing you can along the way to let them know they’re loved and supported.
One way we do that personally is through the family photographs displayed on the walls of our home, and for others through the portraits we take and the wall galleries we design for our clients. The daily subconscious exposure as your child eats their breakfast or does their homework has a profound effect on their sense of self-esteem, acceptance and sense of belonging.Daily subconscious exposure to family photographs has a profound effect on their sense of self-esteem, acceptance and sense of belonging. Click To Tweet
The school photo with the cheesy smile? While it wouldn’t be my first choice, it does show to the world (and your kids) that they’re important enough to be on the wall of your home.
But to truly take advantage of all the psychological and sociological benefits of displaying family portraits, frame the portrait of you smiling at your teen as you’re joking around. Or go for the one of your daughter with her dad’s arms around her pulling her in for a hug; that photo that shows her daily that he will always protect her, always love her.
I disagree with the author that ‘many parents accept this situation as an inevitable consequence of 21st-century life’. The majority of parents I know and work with are doing everything they can to ensure their kids are independent, happy and confident. And we’re thankful to be right alongside these parents in the work we do, supporting them the best way we know how.