Mission Support/Guidance Boundaries
A family is not a business. But in many ways the aspects of the business model is indeed incorporated into the family dynamic. The parents could be considered the managerial staff: keeping the accounting books in the black, restocking supplies, general overview and running of the mill. The children or teens; however, are not mere employees doing their due diligence to get the work cranked out. Nothing would get done if we had those sorts of expectations!
Instead, I like to think of the parent/teen scenario as the parents being the dept. managers who are about to retire or be promoted, and they are training their teens to be their replacement.
Offices sure do run better when the manager sticks around to train his replacement, rather than controlling every aspect until the last minute and then throwing the new guy on the job only half-ready or not at all. There's a ripple effect affecting everyone in the business when things of that nature happen, and there's a similar effect when teens leave the nest without the proper training.
So how do we change our thinking from "I'm in charge, I'm the boss,and I say what goes" to a healthier vision of training our replacement? It takes work and dedication. But I'll give you a few tips.
If you go online and look up your favorite companies, on each business's website you'll find a Mission Statement. A mission statement outlines the reason the business exists, it's goals and how it hopes to achieve them.
I'd like you to please take a moment to ask yourself, "What is the mission of my family?"
It's okay if you have never thought about this before, you're thinking about it now. This is a helpful tool to help get your family in sync. It brings communication and closeness between all the members in the family. Here's how:
- Gather the family and brainstorm a list of values, as many as you can think of! Here's a starter set: Accountability, Commitment, Courage, Faith, Gratitude, Loyalty, Privacy, Promise Keeping, Respect, Responsibility, Self-restraint, Teamwork, Tradition. There are many more, what are some that resonate with you and your family?
- Now that you have your list, ask everyone in the family to write down their top five values.
- Let each person discuss why they chose each value - doing this as a round robin keeps the conversation going and avoids boredom and feeling lectured by the other family members.
- Pick between 4 and 6 values to incorporate in your mission statement.
- Write your statement using the values. An example using a few values listed above would be: "In our family we value being respectful to one another, keeping our commitments, expressing gratitude, and remembering to walk in our faith. We do this so we can enjoy our time together and be a positive influence on our friends and the world."
Now, consider writing a mission statement describing your family's identity (who you want to be) and purpose (what you want to achieve together). Memorize it and review it regularly. When needed, ask each other: "How does the decision we're making reflect our Mission?"
All the members of your family are invested in seeing it through, because all the members had a hand in creating it. You are a family, you are a team.
It can be so easy to lose yourself in all your responsibilities as a parent. To run around like a chicken with it's head cut off, or bury your head in the sand like an ostrich in fear.
Both of those analogies really creep up on you as life gets busier and busier, and the next thing you know you're in full throttle. But you know what both of those examples have in common? Isolation. Neither of those feathered friends above are spending time getting refreshed by their peers.
If you know about oxytocin, then you'll know that we were created to live in a loving connection with other people (and if you don't know about oxytocin: it's a hormone our bodies create to connect us to another person. Primarily released during lactation & child birth to bond with the baby, and during orgasm with our lover - it keeps us longing for them when they are gone, and we are less likely to make love to another).
You don't see many indigenous peoples living solitary lives, and they don't just create community in order to scare off predators or invaders. Why is this? As humans we long for community and relationship with our peers. Research studies have shown that people survive heart attack surgeries most effectively when they have loving, supportive relationships in their lives - that people have healthier bodies, clearer minds, and an overall sense of joy when they connect to other adults in meaningful relationships.
If you are shy or nervous when going meet new people it can be helpful to tell yourself that you're doing it for your teen.
Having adult friendships helps you maintain seperateness and self-definition from your teen (mentioned in Part 2 of this series). You are able to role model for your teen what healthy friendships look like (remember those teen years, some of those friendships were iffy). If you are a single parent, it can occur that our children and teens can take on a friend or caregiver role to fulfill our need for friendship/companionship - having your own adult friends takes that burden from your teen (even if he's placed that responsibility upon himself under no influence from you).
When you have friends who have pre-teens, teens, or grown children they can give you perspectives you wouldn't have thought of on your own. The cliche: it takes a village to raise a child - does not stop at the teen years.
Plus, if your friends have teens you benefit two-fold: They might have anecdotes about the kids you haven't heard yet, so you get a little glimpse into who your teen is when you're not around. Second, if you all spend time together at the same time (adults visit adults while teens visit teens) in the same home, you're still interacting with your teen while also getting the refreshing you so deeply need.
This is a pivotal point that I think many, many parents overlook. They think their martyrdom from social activities is proving they are devoted parents, but in the grand scheme of things better parents balance time at home and time with friends.
Teens hear Who You Are more than they hear what you say. They aren't looking for head knowledge, they want to learn through experience. That means they are siphoning your verbal and non-verbal communication with them and with other people. They are putting it in their gas tank to use later when they are with others or with you.
I'd like you to genuinely ask yourself: What are your priorities, and do you actually incorporate them into your life?
Do you say your priority is your family, but then you work late most days? Do you say that you value clean/sober living, but then laugh along with movies that have drug or alcohol abuse? Do you say that you place a high importance on good grades, but the tv or radio is always on?
Where does what you say and what you do connect and where do they separate?
What happens when someone else in your life pushes your limit? Do you give in? Do you give in and gripe? Are you politely firm when you decline?
What happens when your teen breaks a rule? Do you follow through with the consequence? Do you give warning after warning with no follow through? Do you come up with a consequence on the spot, then feel guilty for how harsh it was and renege later?
Whether it's a boundary in your family, work or social life, your teen is picking all of it up. He's learning how far he can push you, and also he's learning how far to allow others to push him.
When you exhibit healthy and appropriate boundaries, your teen will internalize those same boundaries. You can know that when he's at school, work, or out with friends he won't be talked into doing something harmful, and you can also know he won't likely be as overly rebellious to seek out risky behaviors as he would be otherwise.
If you wonder if your boundaries are healthy and appropriate, may I suggest that you write a list of your boundaries and then talk to your friends, spouse or partner, or a therapist. If someone suggests you might have too strong of a boundary, or too weak of one, you have a starting point to find out where the happy-medium lies.
To make an appointment with Jessica for therapy, please call her at (530) 921-5122 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find her on her office webpage at: http://chicocreekcounseling.com/our-staff/jessica-wilkerson/