You don’t have to take on your child’s pains.

You don’t have to take on your child’s pains:  In fact …. you shouldn’t!

This morning I got a text from one of my daughters, who’s away at college. “Are you around? I want to talk to you. I have a problem.

Wow. Nothing can make a parent drop what she’s doing faster. A couple minutes later, on Skype, I saw a stressed looking face, that I love hugely, and eyes that began to tear as the problem was revealed. Fortunately, it wasn’t a catastrophe. But she was very upset and felt responsible for some plans gone wrong, though in fact, she wasn’t really to blame. I helped her come up with a few strategies for negotiating about a potentially non-refundable purchase for a canceled event.  And tried to help her see that this was not huge, and was worth the loss if another solution couldn’t be found. I sent as big a hug and as many air kisses as I could squeeze through the Skype connection.

Of course, it’s not the first problem that’s come up: college students get ill, get stressed about an assignment, suffer romantic break-ups. Even those that are generally very “mature.”

Caring for kids brings a steady flow of “problems,” large and small: nasty cuts, broken favorite toys,boy, sad, alone ended friendships, lost games, embarrassing moments, illnesses, hurt egos – it goes on and on from infancy through adulthood. (And I know this stuff doesn’t stop even with fully grown “children.”)

This morning as I Skyped, I felt my heart start to ache, my head to get a bit jumpy and I started to worry and feel anxious. I really wanted to erase my daughter’s discomfort. I began to feel as she did – stressed and worried. It’s what we parents do – when our child hurts, we hurt. We suffer along with our kids.

Then a light bulb went on: I cannot take on my daughter’s suffering. Or anyone else’s.  In fact, taking on her pain was exactly the opposite of what would help her!!  If I stay in my own less troubled space, I can think more clearly, project calmness, and beam love to my child.

This is a tough insight that asks us to go counter to our natural instincts. Much as we wish those we love to be happy and problem free, we gain nothing – and actually loose the best we can offer as a parent – by co-suffering.





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