Where is the love?

How to deal when your rents dis­ap­point you.

Girlfriend - - WINTER 2017 -

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.”

The be­trayal

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.

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