Connecting with a tech-savvy tween or teen can be very challenging, so the modern parent must be mindful of managing their own intellect and will in order to engage youth in a healthy relationship. That means that when you are responding to your children’s interests and issues your motivation as a parent must be cleared of hidden or overt judgments and desires to be in control of your child and their choices, behavior and preferences. Taking things personally (positive or negative) can lead to perceptions of favoritism on the part of siblings, with consequences as indicated in a recent article by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids featuring a Brigham Young University Study that finds teens who feel less favored by parents are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
The study concludes that even if you treat your children differently, it is important to communicate love for each child as an individual in order to minimize perceptions of favoritism. And yet communicating love to unify the family is a fundamental concept that is easily complicated by our modern lifestyle and emotion.
In a talk entitled, “Detaching with love,” Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P., a Dominican priest of the Western Dominican Province visiting St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church this week in Granite Bay, explained the art of love as detaching from the feelings associated with loss of power and control without harboring ill will towards the individuals involved. His insights about living love are strategic for cultivating honest, open communication in a cyber-powered world that easily confuses a connection with a relationship. Vogt is the founder of 12-Step-Review, which features the serenity prayer as certain way to pursue spiritual healing and strengthen relationships in a fallen, turbulent world. In dealing with the strong emotion of modern life, “we can detach from our feelings,” he said, “and then respond and implement consequences without wishing individuals ill will.”
Vogt explains that a spiritually healthy person can learn to hold someone accountable no matter how maddening or horrific the action without vengeance (imagine loving Hitler, for example) – but rather with a heart at peace. This is the essence of the power of forgiveness which always seeks the greater good in every situation because of faith in God’s sovereignty over good and evil. It is a commitment to serenity. “For a Christian, love exists in your will not by how you feel,” he said. And according to Vogt, we need to learn how to love ourselves properly in order to love others. “If you love inequity (i.e., bias/injustice, preferential treatment), then you do not love yourself.”
The cyber social realm has more influence to shape perceptions by featuring untruth as real experiences that inspire insecurity such as: I am not enough – rich enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or famous enough. Hence finding grace at home (especially when siblings are involved), in the form of kind, genuine, honest attention with a corrective and caring heart is even more important for adolescent youth today. The way to love your children “fairly” is to love God first, so you can be an instrument of peace and wisdom which does not discriminate.
See related: The role of the parent in confronting the bully at school
(Note: This is part one of a four-part series on spiritual healing for the cyber-powered family – lessons from Fr. Emmerich Vogt and the 12-Step-Review.)