Well the theme that seems to come up in my work right now is family dynamics. Yesterday I listened to a woman tell me that her family doesn't care about her. They are too busy with their lives and family isn't important to them. It is hard to know what to say as there is obviously conflicting ideas of living. She is "Old World" and cooked for her family and looked after them. Doesn't understand why they don't have the same ethic. I wonder how much is that she is lonely as her husband has died and her identity was likely looking after her family, and how much is that she isn't able to let go and let her children live their lives. That is a hard thing about being a parent.. family. Letting go and letting the children live their lives and make their own mistakes.
Today, I heard another longtime client was talking about her children. One of them blames her for everything that is wrong and the other has drug problems showing up only when it is convenient or when they can get money. It is hard to throw a child out of the house, but sometimes necessary. There are also cultural issues that I wonder about as well. In every generation, we are considered a product of the generation past. You have likely heard or said "I hope I never become my parent" and then later we hear something come out of our mouth or see ourselves do something and shriek in horror.
The thing about hearing the "story" or concerns of one's family is I am only hearing one side. I don't know what the "family" experience is. I asked the second person about possible responsibility that she may have in the actions/inactions of her family. She is willing to concede some of her part of this story. The irony is that is so easy to critique when one is not involved.. but when it is YOUR family or situation, that is harder. When I heard the story yesterday, I felt guilt that I do not write to my grandparents enough, and wondered at how my family sees my function/role in the family.
It is a life-long struggle. We seek to belong and when we are secure, we seek to find our own identity away from our structured environment. That is what we do as children. We develop attachment to our parents and we are affected by the type of attachment we have. Love is an essential need for any child. A child needs to feel loved and cared for to feel secure. If they do not form attachments or felt secure, they are affected in their development This is according to Erik Erikson's theory of development. He posited that every stage is affected by the previous one. Once we have gained that security, we attempt to break from that to determine/find our own way. This is typically adolescence, early 20's. The problem is, that as parents, it is hard to watch our children make mistakes and suffer failure. We want to protect them. But sometimes we over do and the child isn't able to develop a sense of autonomy or has unhealthy dependence on the parent. It is a complex web.. and hard to balance. When to pull and when to let go. So many times, I want to tell my patients what I think they should do.. my opinion. But I can't do this due to the type of counseling we offer. We can't say as chaplains or pastoral care professionals that we think they are being idiots and we wish that they would smarten up. But we can love them and help as we are able. Sometimes we have to let them fail before they succeed. And sometimes it is easier to say what we think, then to do.