When Parents Hurt by Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. is a book of ouchies. Big ones.
By the time you need it, there is a history… a dance… that has been going on for some time. Everyone knows the steps. It is for parents and their grown children, after all.
It’s not easy reading, especially if you’re struggling or suffering. Perhaps it is best read BEFORE you need it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s true.
My husband and I, as is obvious by now, did not read it “before”. We read it long after it was needed… when rifts had already been built and fortified by others… and (to our shame) by our own choices.
We are not only parents of adult children… but adult children of divorce, which adds a whole ‘nuther level to “messy”.
Toss in some awkward and poor choices at the beginning (after all, we’d never done this before) and a few disabilities and mental health issues here and there (not just the children’s but our own) and you have a soup pot ready to boil over under the best of circumstances. We do not have the best circumstances.
This book has information on every conceivable issue that might occur in the parent/child relationship and sections to “Strive to:” and “Strive to avoid:”. It confronts Twenty-First Century problems and stuff that’s as old as time. In short, it covers pretty-much everything.
When I opened the book, the front flap was in the “Gaining Charity” section, written for divorced parents. It asks you to check the sentences that apply to you. Things like:
I consciously or unconsciously attempted to get my child to side with me against the other parent and My guilt about the divorce, or my role in it, has made it hard for me to let my children talk about their feelings…
And then it breaks each feeling down and looks at it in more detail. It’s that way with the whole book.
At the end of the book, there is a fabulous afterword that talks about compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and optimism. It then discusses the benefits of healing… for YOURSELF. It seems that his goal of the whole book is to bring comfort to hurting parents, not tear them down or make them feel shame. He offers a place on his website to contact other hurting parents (www.whenparentshurt.com).
In the end, it is about realizing your own and your children’s imperfections and holding on to your self-esteem as you travel the path to rebuilding the relationship or move towards acceptance.
One thing that jumped out at me in the bookstore: Understand how society’s high expectations of parents contribute to the risk of parental wounds. It’s funny – not haha funny, but odd – how reading one sentence can open a floodgate.
Here’s what I mean: Yesterday, I was on a website that belongs to a somewhat famous person. The woman shared photos of her growing young family. Her husband had a child from his first marriage, now grown, who is not in the photos. A commenter said, “Next time, let Jason (not his real name) get in the photo. He must feel very left out! Shame, shame!” As expected, an online “argument” ensued, which drew very strong opinions and ugliness from both sides.
Parenting in the public eye must be horrendous. It’s difficult enough in private.
If you’re a young parent and are at all concerned, I suggest this book be in your bookshelf, just in case. I don’t want to say that one day it could be too late… because I’m the kind of person who believes things can be changed or improved at any point, even when things seem hopeless. But… yeah. There is such a thing as too late… don’t let your situation be one of those.