Have you ever experienced a disconnect with your kids? Are you experiencing one right now? Do you feel distant from your children, like they are pulling away from you, don’t want to talk, and don’t seem to want a relationship with you?
If so, you have a normal relationship with your kids. Painful, but normal. Hang in there, because this too shall pass. With a few exceptions that involve major red flags such as signs of depression or drastic personality changes, most of the distance kids put between themselves and their parents is a harmless result of a quest for independence. It is the natural order of things, the stage of life you have spent their childhood preparing them for, but it is still emotional and a little disconcerting when they turn their apathy and frustration in your direction.
Part of me has always believed that people prepare themselves for oncoming physical distance from their loved ones by preemptively creating an emotional distance. It’s the subconscious decision to pretend that someone doesn’t mean too much to you so that leaving them will be less difficult. I think your kids are doing it without even realizing it. They can see their independence peeking from the horizon and they emotionally prep themselves for it by convincing themselves that they don’t need you anymore.
So what can you do?
Knowing that their behavior is actually, in part, a defense mechanism might help you take less offense. Consider that they are trying to discover who they are without you, they have an overwhelming need to be accepted by their peers, and they struggle with inherent immaturity and an inability to truly process the consequences of their actions. In other words, it’s NOT you. It’s them. As hard as it is, you have to decide not to take it all personally.
Instead, help them discover who they are. Guide them toward relatable peers with similar interests and personalities. Help them reason through their choices and the outcomes those choices might bring. Facilitate their journey to maturity, rather than controlling the process and halting it completely. Allow your kids to falter and fail and know that each time they do, they are growing toward adulthood.
It’s yet another test of our love for our kids that we encourage them to have a life outside of us. When your kids seem distant, don’t assume there’s a reason to be alarmed. Just ask yourself if they are putting their toes in the water and testing the temperature. Better to let them take those small steps toward independence than to watch them attempt a cannonball without knowing how to swim.