Slogans that make parenting more serene

Sadly, most of us learn things the hard way, especially our kids.

Sobriety chip given given to Al-Anon or other 12-step group members to denote specified lengths of sobriety; on the back is the Serenity Prayer. Here, green is for six months of sobriety; purple is for nine months (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/JONN LEFFMANN)
Sobriety chip given given to Al-Anon or other 12-step group members to denote specified lengths of sobriety; on the back is the Serenity Prayer. Here, green is for six months of sobriety; purple is for nine months
For those of us working over the years in the field of addiction alongside parents and their teenage and young-adult children, one of the most important things we can recommend to parents is attending regular All-Anon meetings.
Al-Anon groups are based on welcoming relatives and friends of alcoholics and other substances who share their “experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems.”
Addiction touches the entire family in every aspect of its members’ lives, and we have found that when parents change their attitudes and behavior toward a child or loved one, not only do their lives become more manageable, the loved one benefits as well. They learn to take responsibility for their own choices and to live with the consequences.
As we used to share in family groups, if you catch your child when he jumps from the first floor, he will keep climbing higher, expecting you to be there when he jumps. By the eighth floor, no parent can catch his child.
Sadly, most of us learn things the hard way, especially our kids. If we make it harder for them the first time around, they will learn more quickly.
AL-ANON FOLLOWS the 12-step program, which has been found – when really integrated into all of one’s affairs – to improve parents’ lives, bringing on a real sense of serenity. One of the gifts of Al-Anon is that it helps families change their “head space” in a positive way, which is one of its slogans.
Similar to the slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous, these valuable “foods for thought” are life savers. Easy to remember (though harder to apply), they can help us lead far more serene lives.
Anger is just one letter short of danger: We all get angry, whether our anger is based solely on our children’s behavior or is a trigger in us that causes us to overreact.
If it is acted upon or suppressed, it becomes dangerous to us as well as our loved one. Taking this into account helps to apply the Al-Anon acronym Q-TIP – “Quit taking it personal.” This often sparks our overreaction. Remember, it is usually not about us. And if we keep in mind the danger of “Halt – don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, tired,” it will be much easier for us to slow down and act thoughtfully.
An expectation is a resentment waiting to happen: In life as a whole, but more so with a challenging teen, we must watch our expectations. Resenting our kids for something that might be beyond their control causes rifts on both sides.
Detachment, not amputation: The expression “detach with love” doesn’t mean that we stop being involved with our kids.
It simply means that we can help direct them but then step back and let them make their own decisions (unless they are life-threatening). We don’t take on the situations our loved ones have created.
This is the only way they will have any desire to change toxic behaviors. It’s also an important way to keep us safe from enmeshment and pain.
Easy does it, First things first, Keep it simple, How important is it and Just for today are slogans that help us to stay in the moment. As parents, we often mull over past decisions or worry about the uncontrollable future. Staying in the moment, breaking things down and prioritizing can bring us serenity. It’s something we can control and experience now. Every moment in mindful recognition of the present helps empower us to deal with future and past issues in a far better way.
Keep the focus on yourself and Let it begin with me can be lifesavers. When we work on our own well-being, not only do our kids benefit from the visual role model we become, we have the energy to do what we must to make changes that enhance our lives, in turn enhancing theirs.
The slogan Let go and let God allows us to take a break from what is beyond our control and turn it over to a power greater than us. As parents, focusing on things that are out of control gives us an excuse not to focus on what we can accomplish, which is generally based on changes we can make in ourselves.
The slogan Live and let live teaches us that our children are not extensions of ourselves. It keeps us from judging our teenagers when they choose to dress or express themselves in a way different than we would.
Progress, not perfection reminds us that life is about the journey. When striving for perfection in ourselves and or in our kids, we arrive at the “three unwanted p’s” – perfectionism, procrastination, paralysis. This is toxic for all of us and will reinforce our children’s self-criticism and feelings that they are not valuable if they cannot prove to us that they are perfect. All we can expect of them is to be the best they can be.
The healing is in the hearing reminds us that the greatest gift we can give to our kids is to listen to them and then “think” – be thoughtful, honest, intelligent, necessary and kind. This allows us to stop before we react. It aligns with the “three a’s” – awareness, acceptance and action.
When followed in this order, our reactions are bound to be more appropriate.
The “three c’s” – I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it – help us stay away from the blame, stay in present and make sure that the final “c” – we don’t contribute to it – doesn’t happen.
One of my favorite expressions is “Fear: false evidence appearing real.”
When we are fearful, as we all know, we get stuck. Often, our fears are based on things that are far from true. Take the time to think and check them out before you react to them. We can communicate to our kids our fears and concerns about them to show them that we sincerely care. I once worked with a girl who purposely stayed out late to get her mother’s attention, which never came.
She would have loved for her mom to express concern. We can always do that in a loving, caring way.
Then there is “How: honest, open and willing.” What a wonderful way for us to lead our lives! On the flip side are the “four unwanted m’s” – martyrdom, managing, manipulating, mothering. Obviously, as mothers, we need to mother, though at the same time we need to make sure that our mothering is not smothering.
GIVE THESE simple slogans a try. Pull them out of your hat whenever you need to regain your serenity. Allow your kids to make their own mistakes without taking them on. Step out of your higher power’s shoes; they are way too big for us to fill, and in the end, our kids need us to simply be attentive, loving parents who role-model positive behaviors and attitudes.
The writer is a teen and young-adult counselor specializing in addictions who has worked with youth and their parents for over 26 years.;