Nurturing Parent vs. Close Friendship

Our blindness to keep our children attached to us and the other adults responsible for them has not only taken away their armour but puts a sword in the hands of their peers. When friends replace parents, children lose their necessary protection against the heedlessness of others. The amiability of a child in such circumstances can easily be overwhelmed. The resulting pain is more than many children can bear. Studies have been indisputable in their findings that the best protection for a child, even through teenage years, is a strong attachment with an adult.

The most notable of these studies comprised of ninety thousand adolescents from eighty different communities chosen to make the analysis as representative of western culture as possible. The primary discovery was that teenagers with sound emotional ties to their parents were much less likely to display drug and alcohol problems, suicide attempts, or engage in violent behaviour and early sexual activity. In other words, such teenagers were at notably reduced risk for the issues that stem from being defended against vulnerability. Shielding children from stress and maintaining their emotional health and functioning impart vital connections to their parents.

This was also the conclusion of the well-noted American psychologist Julius Segal, a brilliant pioneer of research into what makes adolescents resilient. Reviewing studies from around the world, Segal determined that the essential component to keeping children from being overwhelmed by stress was the presence of a charismatic adult — an individual with whom they identify and from whom they gather strength. As Dr. Segal has also said, “Nothing will work in the absence of an indestructible link of caring between parent and child.”

Peers should never have come to matter that much — certainly not more than parents or teachers or other adult attachment figures. Bullying and rejection by peers sting, obviously, but they shouldn’t be traumatized and should not be so devastating. An excluded child’s overwhelming sadness reveals a considerably more severe attachment problem than it does a peer-rejection problem.

Remember, no one is perfect. So carry on reinforcing your children’s emotional health, continue learning positive parenting skills, and never forget to nurture your child’s happiness.

Never stop believing, asking the question ‘Why?’ and being unique.

— Brian Nadon

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