Where is the love?
How to deal when your rents disappoint you.
What to do when your rents let you down
You vs them
When you’re a kid, your parents seem perfect, like superheroes or X-Men or Google. They know EVERYTHING and take care of you and are endless founts of wisdom and cookies. But as you grow older, you begin to realise they don’t know everything. In fact, they’re only human. It’s a world-rocking realisation, and a hard one to deal with.
Denise Reichenbach, a counsellor for Relationships Australia (relationships. org.au), says feeling disappointed with your parents is a common part of growing up. “It’s not too uncommon for teens... mainly because at that age we tend to have more conflict with our parents, and disappointment is a natural consequence of that,” she explains. “When we look at it from a developmental level, adolescence is a time when we’re gaining our own view of the world, finding our own identity and there’s a lot of growing that happens at that stage – including the realisation that our parents are human, they have flaws and make mistakes.”
Before your mind is blown, Denise says to think about how this can have a positive impact on your life. It makes you see how your parents have been where you are, and while they’re not perfect, they have lived and learned from their mistakes, usually coming through the other side a stronger person. When you think about it, you can learn way more from them than some perfect mum who never stuffs up.
But then there are the times when they let you down and you just can’t see the positive...
The let down
You have a big netball game but your mum is too busy working to watch. Or your dad was supposed to spend the weekend with you but he’s ditched you at the last minute for who-knows-what-is-more-important. When your parents aren’t present, physically or emotionally, it can be incredibly disheartening. It’s even harder if, say, your parents are separated and don’t get on, and you feel like you can’t address the problem without creating World War III.
Denise says that if you can talk to your parents about the problem and let them know you want to spend more time with them, that can be a really positive thing. But once again if talking to them isn’t really an option, you should talk to someone else who will be able to listen and give you good advice (think a trusted adult, a counsellor or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800). You can also access family counselling and advice on relationship issues from places like Relationships Australia – check out its website relationships.org.au or call 1300 364 277 to find out more.
The old school views
A major area of disappointment comes from the realisation that your parents are racist/homophobic/sexist/generally old-fashioned and small-minded. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but if it happens to you, it can be really disheartening. You want to make the world a better place, but it’s hard to be positive when you can’t even escape prejudice at home. If it’s really important for you to get your parents to understand where you’re coming from, try to have a calm conversation with them and don’t become defensive. Listen to their opinions without shutting them down (that’s a ticket to Argument Town), and then express yours. It might be helpful to give them articles, blogs or even YouTube videos on the topic.
If you’ve tried talking to them about the issues and they still haven’t changed their minds (spoiler: this is very likely), you may have to agree to disagree. “Just accept that you have this point of view, and you share it with your friends and other people, but your parents don’t agree,” suggests Denise. “That’s OK. You don’t have to agree with somebody to get along with them or love them.”
Nothing hurts more than when a parent betrays you, their family, in a big way. Perhaps one of them cheated, or gambled away the life savings and put your family in massive debt. These mistakes can seriously damage your relationship with them.
“You lose trust in your parents. That can have a big effect on you, especially if it’s something you never knew about and suddenly you find out they did something disappointing. It can have a big impact on your view of the world,” says Denise. A parental betrayal doesn’t only break your heart, it can make you distrust people for the rest of your life. It’s really important to try to resolve the matter now.
“It can cause disillusioning, but it’s often a very necessary part of growing up,” advises Denise. “It’s a time to build our own identity and form our own opinions and make sense of the world. I think every teen challenges their parents’ point of view at some stage.”
Denise suggests if you feel you can talk to your parents about the situation, that’s always the best first route to try. You may even want to suggest seeing a family counsellor together. If you can’t talk to either of your ’rents, it’s a must to talk to someone else you can trust. This could be friends, a school counsellor or even the Kids Helpline. Talk about your feelings and get the best advice you can. Know you’re not alone in this situation – there is help out there and you will get through this.