There’s no universal book or manual out there on how to raise kids, how to handle specific situations, or how to deal with MY children. Believe me, I’ve looked. There’s lots of books on what to expect, how to handle kids of certain age ranges, how to parent, how to discipline, etc etc. But, these are all just suggestions on how to handle broad topics and situations. Many are written by doctors, psychologists, etc who have years of educational experience, who have studied kids, and some even specialize in child behavior of children of certain age ranges or situations. However, the fact remains that all children are different. There are many things that can be said in a broad way about kids (i.e. all teenagers, at some level, are self-centered). But that level also depends on the child, the circumstances, and the upbringing. I’ve read many books about kids that come from broken homes, as four of my children have. These books generally talk about behavioral issues these kids may exhibit, the feelings they might have, and even how they might handle relationships with others as they get older as a result of coming from a broken home. Again, there is nothing concrete here. Sure, these findings come from years of studies, but this does not relate to every child and every situation.
My own studies through my psychology degree and my own experiences with my family and families around me tells me that not every child who comes from a family where the parents are drug users or abusive will turn out this way as well. However, it is more likely if they are raised in this environment their entire lives. But, when it comes to a broken home the outcomes are endless because of how different each child is, how different parents parent their children, and how well the child adapts to the situation.
With a broken home the ideal situation is that both parents are able to work together to raise the children, they are able to agree on a specific co-parenting plan, there is no abuse or domestic violence involved, and both backs each other up with punishments and rewards. Unfortunately, this is not how it works in most cases. Usually (and here’s that generality yet again), one parent is the more stable parent, the one that imposes a stronger structure for the children, more discipline, and works harder to ensure their children become good members of society and succeed in their lives.
Back to the kids, no matter the issues between the estranged parents, no matter the co-parenting plan (or lack thereof), I believe that there are specific responsibilities a parent has to their children. The level of responsibility a parent takes for their child, how serious the parent takes their responsibilities, and how hard the parent fights for what they believe is right for their child will depend on the parent.
I can only speak for myself, so I will describe my own personal views for my children. I believe that I have many responsibilities to my children. I brought them into this world, so my responsibilities are nearly endless. I believe that I have a responsibility to my children to create general and specific goals for my children depending on their age and maturity level, and I have a responsibility to help my children attain those goals to the best of my ability.
I have a responsibility:
- To teach my children how to be productive members of society
- To teach my children everything I can about being an adult before they turn 18
- How to be independent and take care of themselves
- How to contribute to society (not take away from it)
- To graduate from high school
- How to appropriately interact with others
- How to make age-appropriate decisions
- To make decisions for my children when they aren’t old enough or mature enough to make those decisions
- How to have and maintain healthy relationships of all types
- To teach them how to dream big and never give up
- To protect them as much as possible from the evils in this world
This may seem a bit broad and even maybe extensive, but I brought my kids into this world and I hold my responsibilities to them in high regard. I do this because I love them and because my heart breaks when I see them get hurt. By doing these things for my children I can have the peace of mind knowing that I’ve done everything I can for my children. But I can still only pray that the lessons and morals I have instilled in them and exampled for them sink in well enough to help them become the best adults possible.
I will still have to allow them to make their own mistakes, which absolutely breaks my heart; I have to allow them to be their own person, which I want nothing less; and I have to make sure that I’m there to listen when they need to talk, which I have always been there for them. Every parent will have their own way to teach their children life lessons, principles, and morals and standards. I can only follow my gut. Still, it’s certainly not always easy or fun, but it is certainly worth it if my children turn out to be good people.