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Q I am a fifteen-year-old, South Asian girl. I had always imagined my parents as courageous, strong, and fearless. Now with their business struggling, I see how fearful and fragile they are. They also fight more. It makes me feel insecure, and worried about the family. I don’t know quite how to relate to them anymore, as they don’t seem to be the parents they have always been.
A It is very natural and healthy when you are young to only be exposed to your parents’ best sides, and not to have to worry about their own foibles and struggles. Children feel more secure when they don’t witness much conflict, and experience only the strong and resilient side of their parents. This helps them feel safe and protected, and that their foundation is built on solid ground.
When the home base gets shaken up, it’s surprising and scary. As a fifteen-year-old, you are already going through a period of transition in your life. Now there is a feeling of disillusionment, where things aren’t as you thought they were, and there is trouble in paradise. But you are also more emotionally ready to actually see how adults in your family react to stress and misfortune.
If you can’t relate to them in the usual way, it’s worth sharing your apprehensions with them. Tell them how seeing them under stress makes you feel. Share your fears. It’s good for them to know how you are affected by the family dynamics, so that they have the opportunity to explain matters fully. It is also important for you to reach out and know that they are still your loving parents who can, and will take care of you. If you can have a real conversation with them, it will help you understand them better as well. This ought to bring you all closer, and help everyone get through this crisis with a bit more ease.
This is an important moment to begin seeing your parents as ordinary human beings and also realize, and be grateful for the safety they have provided for you for so many years. Begin to acknowledge the adults you’ve admired and depended on, as people with their own shortcoming and struggles. This will help you to accept both the positive and negative sides of humans, and life in general.
In three years you will be a young adult. At some point you will also have your own relationship. You will face being close to someone and getting to know that person well, warts and all. This will be exciting and, at times, disappointing, as you find the imperfections in the other person. This is what growing up is all about. Maturity is about the process of appreciating that if we are usually strong and resilient, we can also be fragile and afraid at times.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com