I will never tire of telling people that my home is where my family is: my husband and "our" teenage children. The family has always been massively important in my life, although I have not always been able to dedicate as much time to them as I would have liked. Even now, after 17 years of being a mum, each new stage and every new situation makes me feel like I am a new mum all over again and I worry about whether I am doing things right. You might think that I have a certain advantage because I've known thousands of children and their families, and, in theory, I suppose I do. However, in practice, and when it comes to my own children, the whole thing takes on another dimension.
It is very difficult to live up to the expectations of adolescent sons or daughters. In just a few years, you go from being their heroine and the person who can answer all of their questions, to being a mere pathetic mortal who doesn't know anything about anything! From one day to the next, you suddenly stop being their only reference and role model, and you become the last person they want to follow. Almost overnight, we go through some kind of metamorphosis in the eyes of our children and our status changes. Most of us went through more or less the same thing ourselves as teenagers, but now, instead of being "the bull", you are suddenly, and without warning, "the bullfighter", and it catches you completely off-guard. All we can do is face it with as much dignity as possible and a tankful of patience.
As a family unit, the pace of life does not allow for many intimate moments together, sharing our feelings. The puberty phase does not help much with this either. Any thoughts about how we are doing or where we are going as a family have been supplanted by individualism. At home, it is hard to coincide with each other, and when we do, daily life can get the better of us. We eat our meals in a race against the clock so that our darling sons or daughters can quickly return to the "cave" that we once called their "bedroom".
In order to find some time away from obligations and our various mobile devices, at weekends, we try to go out for a meal, just the four of us, without any distractions. And it is in moments like these, between our main courses and our desserts, that we can actually look at each other and talk to each other, discussing various subjects, beyond just our daily routines.
In our family, we have decided to make sure such situations arise. We try to arrange moments together which will strengthen our relationships and help us get to know each other better. I can suggest the following activity as a sort of game. We "played" it at home over New Year and the results were wonderful.
- Each member of the family names something positive and something they appreciate about each of the others.
- Each member of the family names something that they know they do not do all that well.
- Each member of the family names something that they think each of the others should improve.
Doing this activity, we all felt appreciated, listened to and vulnerable at the same. That barrier of "I am the parent and you are the child" vanished for a moment and was replaced by language which came from the heart. It was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend 100%. If you decide to try it too, let me know how it goes.