Needless to say, the family functioned in crisis mode. I was the youngest of four, the only girl, and I became the housekeeper, cook, laundress, answering service, and all around chirpy person. School became kind of an after thought, grades plummeted, homework seemed stupid, but thank god I had a wonderful group of friends who supported and loved me. My mom's plate was full to overflowing, and we all did what we needed to do to survive this emotional trauma.
Most of high school is a blur for me. But since my grades where nothing to be proud of, I was overweight, and besides being lost in the chorus of our high school musical, I do remember feeling like a loser and pretty invisible. This was a different time in our culture, and parenting was not something blogged about, read about or analyzed. I do remember feeling under appreciated, and undervalued. High grades, staring roles in school musicals, touchdowns and high scores on the basketball teams are tangible accomplishments to be praised, but clean clothes and tuna casserole, not so much. I definitely was not working up to my potential.
What might have helped was the kind of praise all kids crave. Remember your kids when they were eight or nine, and "Watch me mom, watch me dad, look what I can do" came out of their mouths so often that without even looking up you would reply to your praise addict:"Great job honey, or that's fantastic." As kids move into the teen years, they don't run to you anymore to show you the sticker the teacher gave them for excellent homework. Maybe they aren't such great students, or great athletes,and their room is always a disaster area, and they aren't doing their house chores, and to boot they treat you with attitude. Not alot to give praise for. But maybe the things that are successes to them have gone unrecognized, maybe being a good friend, or hanging with their younger sibling when they would rather be on facebook, or calling and having a loving conversation with a grandparent, or just hanging with you when they would rather be with their friends is cause for celebration, and a "hey that was really nice of you to hang with your brother, I know what a pain he can be, or "thanks honey for just hanging with us tonight, I love being with you, and I know you'd rather be with your friends." These small shows of appreciation, especially for those kids that aren't "the stars" can be especially meaningful.
As part of a survey I did with 60, 9th -12th graders, I asked them to fill in this blank: I love when my parents.. Here is what they said. I will let them speak for themselves:
I LOVE WHEN MY PARENT (S):
- Ask me to go places with them because I really don’t get to do that a lot.
- Make me the center of attention because it makes me feel loved.
- Tell me I’m doing good, because it makes me feel good about myself.
- Praise me and say they are proud, and I love when they listen, actually listen, because it makes me feel like they are interested and proud of me.
- Spend time just watching TV with me, because I never get to spend time with them.
- Tell me when they are proud of me because it makes me feel good.
- Say good job, we knew you could do it, because it gives me confidence to succeed in life.
- Say they are proud of me to others because it shows that they notice the good things, instead of just punishing me for the bad.
- Are wicked nice to me because it makes me feel like my parents actually care.
- Say they are proud of me, it makes me feel self fulfilled.
- Aren’t rushing into conclusions about things because it makes me feel like for one second they aren’t judging me.
- Take what I say seriously and believe me because it lets me know they trust me as much as I trust them.
- Hear me out and listen to something I say, because it’s frustrating when they only listen to themselves.
- Ask me to do things with them because it’s the best.
- Talk to me, because it shows they care.
- Tell me that they trust me and that they are proud of me because I like to feel like my parents are happy with me and I don’t want to disappoint them.
- Tell me they are proud of me, because it makes me feel like I actually did some good for them.
- Can just talk and hang out and have fun with me because it makes me feel more connected and more equal.