The name of my business, Parent with Care, has many meanings to me:
- Parent with intention
- Parent as if your child is breakable, because they are
- Parent with love
- Parent gently when needed
- Parent from your heart
- And more…
In reality, I should probs change the “Care” to C.A.R.E. because it stands for what I believe are the 4 essential keys to parenting successfully, and are especially true when it comes to parenting LGBTQ+ youth, teens, and young adults. I believe successful parenting with care requires:
There is a LOT to unpack here and this post is just a starting point, so let’s dig in.
C Compassion triggers action.
We see someone in need, we feel concerned, and we want to help. When it comes to our kiddos, that feeling of compassion can too easily lead to over-parenting or helicopter parenting. The last thing we want is for our children to experience pain, so of course, we want to help them in any way possible. But we need to focus our parenting on helping our kids become empowered, loving, independent, intrinsically motivated adults. And we have to step back and see what our child actually needs, not through the lens of what we believe is best for them. When you have a shared vision for the adult your child can become* your sense of compassion can keep you focused on helping them in ways that will lead to that achieving vision, rather than leading to learned helplessness, disconnection, or rebellion.
A Awareness facilitates understanding.
This one has two parts: awareness of your child, and self-awareness. To parent successfully you need to be aware of your child’s developmental stages – what is happening in their brains and bodies. If your child identifies as LGBTQ+ you need to learn what that means, and what that means to your child. You need to have awareness of what is going on in their lives – at school, socially (online and in real life), in their activities…their internal and external drivers and stressors. This doesn’t mean you have to be in their business 24/7, it means paying attention to what they are saying, what they aren’t saying, and what you are learning from other sources.
The second part of this is self-awareness. Becoming aware of the internal, intrinsic biases (we all have them!) that are getting in the way of you enthusiastically affirming your child. Understanding what you bring to the parenting table – how you were parented and what impact that has on you, or what cycles are repeating. It means having awareness of how you are responding in the moment. Do you know the physical triggers you experience right before you lose it on your kid? Do you have the ability to change course and shift to a more productive response? These are skills you can develop and the results can be palpable.
R Respect demonstrates affirmation.
Demanding a child (no matter their age) respect you, your beliefs, and your rules simply because you are the parent is the literal definition of authoritative parenting, and it leads directly to disrespect and disconnection. As your child moves through adolescence they are becoming more and more independent in every way possible. Their gender and sexual identity are theirs alone. Respecting the person that they are becoming, even when you may not always understand them or their choices, shows them that they have value. When you set appropriate boundaries and implement logical or natural consequences for their actions, you are respectfully helping them learn to be accountable. Understanding that your kiddo has the right to private thoughts and actions, speaking to them kindly, making time for them, celebrating their success, and showing them that you love them even when they mess up are truly effective ways to gain their respect.
E Empathy ignites connection.
Empathy is the ability to anticipate and understand how someone is feeling even when you may not have experienced exactly the same thing. Empathy is not sympathy. The brilliant Brené Brown states, “Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.” In this short video, she explains that empathy involves:
- Perspective Taking, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
- Staying out of judgment and listening.
- Recognizing emotion in another person that you have maybe felt before.
- Communicating that you can recognize that emotion.
As parents, the staying out of judgment part is sometimes the most challenging. Active listening is one skill that can make all the difference when parenting teens but often needs to be learned and practiced.
I truly get how hard parenting can be – been there, done that, times 3 (not to mention all of the teens I have “parented” in my role as educator and mom-friend!). I know without a doubt that compassion, awareness, respect, and empathy are keys to success in every relationship, and the parent-child relationship is a very special opportunity to build these skills.
Looking for support in parenting your teen? Struggling to understand why your kiddo is “acting that way?” Let’s chat! Click here to schedule a free 30-minute conversation.