MORE ON LOYALTY CONFLICTS FOR CHILDREN
Loyalty conflicts are complicated. Resolving loyalty conflicts is a process. That process often starts with reparenting ourselves as we parent our children. How do I that? How do I reparent myself to fill in those broken places while I try to raise another human being?
The first step in any process of human change is recognition of our own contributions to the status quo. This requires a spirit of inquiry about self because we are only able to be as honest with another person as we are able to be honest with ourselves. If I am unhappy with the life partner I chose, I need to accept responsibility for that choice. I need to explore my needs and desires that led me to make a choice for myself that has proven to be a poor one. I need to take responsibility and stop blaming my partner for the choices I made. I need to make better choices. I need to take some risks to change my own behavior in order to build a better life for myself and my children.
“I” statements have power. That is why most approaches to the change process include them. Try it. Keep the focus on self. Keep the focus on personal choices and personal responsibility.
Parents teach us about choices, consequences, personal responsibility, honesty, and integrity. If our parents blamed others for their own shortcomings and disappointments then we are likely to that, too. How can we teach our children about being a decent human being if we are blaming other people for the choices we have made? Becoming a better parent may mean having a different relationship, a different understanding, of how we were raised.
Does that feel disloyal? Do you feel a loyalty conflict? Do you believe that it’s wrong to admit that your Mom or your Dad made choices that hurt you or left you alone too much or blamed you too much or criticized you too much or made you grow up too fast?
Life happens to all of us. Life happened to our parents. Exploring the impact of the choices our parents made is not disloyal. Recognizing the impact of the life challenges thrown at our parents is not disloyal. Being honest about how we felt as children when our parents made the very best choices possible as they faced difficult situations, is not disloyal.
Children shouldn’t have to choose one parent over the other. But many adults say that they felt closer to one parent than they felt to the other, or that one parent had more positive influence than the other. Our feelings towards our parents are not a matter of loyalty or disloyalty. They can be a source of tremendous understanding, compassion, and empathy for our parents and for ourselves when we were children.
Becoming a better parent means acknowledging the ways we need to take care of ourselves to make sure that we don’t unconsciously use our children to meet our own needs.
This process is complicated under the best of circumstances. When our own family has broken apart, it can seem impossible. But our children can’t wait to be adequately parented until we grow up. We need to find a way to take care of our children and take care of self. Find a therapist or counselor or life coach who can help. Find a support group of like-minded parents who can help.
You are worth it and so are your children.