By Dr. Joshua Coleman
I think one of the hardest tasks of being an estranged parent is countering your child’s opinions of how you were or are as a parent.
This is probably counter-intuitive for most of us since it seems like our children get the ultimate vote on our job performance. And yet, there are so many things that go into a child’s perception of the parent, that giving them that much power over your well-being, identity, and self-esteem is kind of a dumb thing to do.
Here are a few reasons why your child’s perceptions might be wrong:
1) Their own temperament colors how they view you and others. New research shows that a child’s temperament, which is largely a function of inheritance, can greatly color how they see the world. Children who are at risk for Borderline Personality Disorder, for example, may be more likely to wrongly perceive aggression in other’s faces. Oppositional or defiant children, of any age, may be wired to be critical of the parent as a way to establish a position of independence or authority. Alcoholic or addicted teens or adult children may view the parent through the blaming lens of their disease
2) Parental Alienation Syndrome: After a divorce, it is fairly easy for a parent to brainwash a child against the other parent. This may cause the child to see the other parent in a harsh and unsympathetic light. Left unchallenged, this perception may persist for years.
3) Separate realities: Because a child may wish that a parent made different decisions, does not mean that their perception of the parent’s motivations or resources at the time they were raising their children is correct.
4) The era when the child was raised: There is some evidence that the era in which a child is raised is in many ways, more predictive of outcome than the parent’s behavior. For example, many of today’s children under 40 were raised with expectations of parental sophistication and involvement that was rare or non-existent in generations before them. These expectations can create resentment and feelings of disappointment in the parent for behaviors that most cultures and eras would consider perfectly normal and expectable.
5) Influence of a DIL, SIL or other motivated family members: Your child’s spouse or some other person may be powerfully motivated and successful in persuading your child to have a negative opinion of you. This may not only distort their view of you in the present but may cause them to rewrite their childhood.
In summary, you can’t leave such an important job as your opinion of yourself as a parent up to your child to determine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Dr. Joshua Coleman
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