1970s couple in front of their van

Image from hooniverse.com.

When I was a teenager, I was no angel. In fact, both my husband and I exhibited some pretty typical rebellious teenage behaviors. We both put our parents through the wringer! So when I had my kids, I dreaded what they might do. How could I prevent them from making the same mistakes I had made?

One thing I did decide was that I was NOT going to reveal to my kids those crazy things I did. I thought that if I did, it would just encourage them to participate in risky behaviors too! So I buttoned my lip and did not talk about those things.

Well, as you can guess, the universe decided that my husband and I needed a little taste of what we put our parents through. Our son Brian was a rebel, and participated  in some of the same behaviors we had as teens. One night, it all came to a head and we were faced with what our son had been doing. I remember asking him,

“Brian, why didn’t you talk to us about what you were doing and how you were feeling? Why didn’t you trust us?”

“Oh mom,” he sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to understand. I know that you and dad would never do those things I did.”

How little my own son knew me! I realized then that my husband and I had put ourselves on a pedestal. My son looked at us and saw he was not up there, nor did he think he ever could be. (Neither were we, of course!) He reacted by going the opposite direction– if he couldn’t be “great” he would be great at being “bad.” We put ourselves in a situation where he could not trust us because we were not honest with him about WHO WE REALLY WERE.

What I learned back then was how important it is for kids to know that they can trust their parents. To do that, they must see us how we really are. As our kids mature, we need to share our experiences, and struggles, both present and past. I have seen over and over that when our kids know who we really are, they can discover who they really are. 

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but after we shared some of those old feelings and rebellious behaviors we had in high school and college, Brian began to open up more about his feelings and behaviors. Our family became an honest place where we could trust and help each other in a new way.

As parents we want to build a bridge of trust with our kids. The bridge has to be layered with bricks of unconditional love, mortared with honesty, and paved with humility. Furthermore, WE need to make the first move. So, if you’re up there, come down from that pedestal. Start building that bridge! It’s never too late!