“I Don’t Trust My Parents To Watch My Kids”
Internal Alarm Bells Ring for a Reason!
In my private practice many parents come in with a primary complaint regarding serious problems trusting their parents to care for their children. They talk about not trusting their parents to watch their kids for a number of reasons.
Clients describe their internal alarm sounding like intense bells, and that bright red flags are waving everywhere. These people were internally experiencing high levels of anxiety, with some dropping in a full panic attack, and all derived from a deep resistant to leaving their beloved children alone with their parents.
These bells/flags are the psyche’s internal compass and it is sounding the alarm!
For whatever reason the client’s parents had been and are invalidating the client’s intrinsic parenting needs. For the parent of a parent to minimize, dismiss, tease, negate, or directly reject what that parent deems important for the safety/wellbeing of children is an existential crisis of profoundly destructive trauma.
It’s similar to the effect a cheese shredder has on a block of cheese. The moment that block of cheese hits that shredder, the block of cheese can never be returned to its original form.
This ‘shredding’ frequently causes a client to become resistant or ambivalent.
No adult child ever wants to experience their parents as shredding their soul, so it is common for the client to shut down.
Neurotic clients sometimes display frantic desperation, and sprint back and forth through the stages of grief. Most get stuck in anger, depression, and bartering.
The key to escaping this rat wheel is to realize that validation and respect has to (seriously, this is the deal, it has to) come from within the client.
The parents are likely to not change — and expecting such a change is pre-arranging deep resentment toward the parents.
The unmet expectation produces internalized conflict — rage, really, within the parent.
This rage is reportedly felt in the middle of the chest, in the hands, and sometimes near the tailbone. But once resentment or rage is internalized, it leads to destructive behaviors toward oneself. These harmful behaviors include self-doubt, guilt, obligatory reactions, and eventually crumbles the family unit.
Most clients who get honest in therapy move into a realm where they realize that by doing what is intrinsically natural, which is protecting their little ones, is profoundly hard.
This act — of doing the ‘right’ thing — is accompanied by a terrible heartache. Initially, this heartache feels like a cost so great it will there is no hope of one day affording to pay that charge.
However, what we as humans are blind to is time. The future cost of not following our intuition, and by that I mean not acting in our most authentic honesty no matter how terrified we might be, is a betray to oneself. People who are even mildly self aware are quick to recognize that self-betrayal is by far the worst heartbreak.
Some overly involved therapists, or even well-meaning but naïve friends, throw around the concept of ‘acceptance’ as if it is a cure-all to what amounts to massive breakdowns of the family unity. Do not believe this fork lore.
Only a small portion of acceptance is needed, for what is being accepted is that what happened is unacceptable. This type of empowered acceptance will break a client free from the shackles of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a slippery defense mechanism that causes people to become paralyzed. Dueling realities usually cause a person to freeze, and though they want to act they are literally unable to do so. Here I find that clients desperately want change…but they are so perplexed at the conflict they literally are unable to change.
These hurt souls spend way too much time in the bartering stage of grief.
Client’s have said, “Well, if my parents just understood where I’m coming from”, or “I’ve never really seen this side of them before so maybe they will change back to who I remember them being”, or even “Maybe if I set up strict boundaries…”
But, let’s not forget that all people, no matter how much we love them or who we once perceived them to be, teach us exactly who they currently are by their actions.
To not believe someone when they reveal exactly who they are through their actions turns ugly real quick. It makes a liar out of the person who projects assumptive expectations while simultaneously making the ‘offender’…well, honest.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect for clients in similar situations is that they are in shell-shock about what is going on.
I remember one client in particular who, in every session, and for weeks, just kept asking “Why is this happening? I don’t understand. I thought they loved me.”
The most telling is that last part, “I thought they loved me.”
“I thought they loved me.”
Is it possible that parents love their adult children, and they love their grandchildren, AND they have not earned the necessary trust to allow them to take care of the kids? Moving into the grey area is perhaps initially uncomfortable, yet it also allows for the pressure to lessen a little bit.
In closing, remember to follow gut instinct. Nobody is owed an explanation for someone’s choices. Saying “No” really is a complete sentence.
And what is also important is that our inner child, our little self, is being protected by the adult self through pro-active empowerment and protectiveness toward your kids.
Don’t ever forget that everyone has the intrinsic right to change their mind at any time and for any reason. Plus, little ones are being molded into who they will be as adults.
Strength is much easier to muster than weakness.
An important aspect of adulting is that every adult really ought to know about their temperaments. Insight and wisdom are very different components within the psyche.
Insight is cultivated by a person having personal experience whereas wisdom is gaining insight by learning from other people’s stories or data.