Let your child have a voice that can be heard

Josh Lockhart

I have now seen on one too many occasions, parents who are trying to live vicariously through their children. Here are just a couple of examples. Parents who sign up their teen in a hockey school so that they can receive the best hockey coaching in the country so that they have the best chance of making the NHL. Or other parents who have put their child into every diving competition there is, because that is what mom used to do. Living vicariously doesn't just happen with sports, it can also happen with art, academic pursuits, fashion and so on.

What is unfortunate is that child who has been enrolled in hockey school since 12 is now 18, knows that they won't make the NHL and is lacking credits to graduate. But the parents guilt this teen into staying in hockey because of all the money they have invested. And that other child who was put in diving competitions ends up having a fear of heights and develops severe anxiety that inhibits their daily functioning because the parents wouldn't listen, they just wanted their child to be the best diver.

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I think we don't empower our children and teenagers enough to pursue their own interests. Yes it is true parents know their children best, but they may not always know what is best for the child. The mentally and emotionally healthy child and teenager knows what is best for them, they know what they like and don't like.

However, they may not be able to explain and express what they are feeling in words like adults can to let their parents know if they like or dislike a particular activity.

If a child does like something, they may ask to do it again; they may have a smile on their face; or it may have a positive impact on another aspect in their life.

If they don't like it, there may be unhealthy fear about returning to the event; they may not talk about the activity; or there may be negative impacts in other areas of their life, such as bedtime routine or school behaviour.

Also, a child may like something at the start, but may dislike it later, and vice versa. We need to pay attention to our child's and teen's cues.

I do understand parents wanting their child to have the best opportunities in life, and what parent doesn't want that? But at the same time, what child doesn't want to be listened to, heard and understood? When was the last time you asked your child what they wanted to do? And if they wanted to do something?

Give your child and teenager a voice. Let them tell you what their boundaries are. Listen to them intently. Doing this can help foster a relationship between the two of you, and it will also give them the confidence to know that they can use their voice, especially as they grow up and explore the world.

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