Tagged attachment parenting

Further Up and Further In: The Adventure of Raising Catholic Teens


I started this post days ago. A discussion at the 4Real forums called my attention to this article, and I quickly typed up some notes — things I wanted to cover in response. That very night, with this post still in my drafts folder, I got a long email from our daughter, detailing how she was in a slump physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. She was still going to daily Mass, but she was starting to buckle under the weight.

We went on a dad-mom-daughter date at the first opportunity. She is now back on the mend, making changes — general and specific — in her life. She’s a young adult and adult things are still new to her, so we’re here to nudge when she starts going off on a tangent, to bring her back to the main road.

As our kids grow, the parent-child relationship becomes even more essential to their developing relationship with God as ultimate authority in their lives. I’d like to propose that this giving over of themselves to God comes so much easier when their heart has been molded in the home. Holding on to my children’s hearts has been my guiding principle these teen years. (I currently have three, ages 13, 16 and 18.)

Every family, every parent-child dynamic varies from home to home. We’ve always tried to keep our hearts open to each other. We’ve had the one-on-one and the two-on-one talks behind closed doors, in the car, in a café, in the parking lot of the church. And I’ve done everything I can in these moments with our children to express exactly what’s in my heart and mind, holding back nothing. I’ve also encouraged the hubby to do the same, though I know it can be hard for men to do that, and that it’s really only necessary in the rare case when a child has no clue where dad is coming from. Our talks always work best when dad remains the unemotional, rational, cool and logical one, even if I dissolve into tears.

So many young people today struggle with living in this world. I don’t want to take Melody’s post apart and say well, she could have done this instead of that, or did more of this than that. Raising Catholic children today *is* hard, and we’re all just trying our best.

When I got my daughter’s e-mail, I was reminded that we are not exactly out of the woods yet, and that my journey as parent isn’t over and won’t be until I leave this earth. So I may offer some words of wisdom here and there but the best that I have is “take all these with a grain of salt”, because while I know the answers up to this point with this particular child in this particular instance, something may happen next week, next month, next year, that will bring me back to “I know nothing.”

But isn’t that how God works? You think you’ve mastered a game, but then you find that there’s a more complicated game surrounding it. You think you’re in an adventure, and then you take one step further and you find that you were actually wrapped up in another, bigger one. Further up and further in, Lewis said in The Chronicles of Narnia. When Lucy thought she was playing hide and seek, and then ended up in that Wardrobe, that’s when the real adventure began. And then for the reader to find out that Narnia isn’t THE world but part of a bigger world, and even one of many worlds… that’s what parenting Catholic teens is really like.

And so we can talk about practicalities, and dos and don’ts, but as long as we don’t forget the big picture of why we’re here, and why we picked and stuck with homeschooling, I believe we’ll be fine. Homeschooling doesn’t completely immunize us from the effects of the culture of death, but I think we get a running start from being aware in the first place that there ARE things out there — some of them very dangerous, and no, we won’t ever be able to shield our children from these 100%, but I don’t think that’s what we’re all about anyway. I would say it’s almost a necessity for them to experience some of these things, for them to be the light that they need to be.

We’re not being helicopter parents — whatever that means — when we give our children the tools that they need to navigate the world they live in. I make my opinions known on just about everything — their clothes, their friends, the activities they choose — but around high school that’s when I gradually let go and let them make those decisions for themselves. So they stumble, and they get hurt, and it does get very painful especially when our hearts are tethered so tightly to theirs. But keeping them away from mistakes and pain only hurts them in the long run. They will be the beautiful testaments to God’s plan that they ought to be, when they’ve also been tested by fire.

The thing about community is that you find it where you are able, but in those times when you can’t, then maybe it’s the season for online friendships, and for cocooning with the family. We’ve homeschooled and raised kids in several states and briefly in the Philippines and Italy. I can’t say that there’s one ideal place to raise kids because they’d be surrounded by faithful Catholic friends and community. Sure, some areas were better than others, but we always had to come back to how we lived and loved in the home. As long as I’m able to know each child deeply, know where his or her heart is, know where he or she is spiritually at any given time, then I’m at peace. Yes, there have been difficulties, like the one time I didn’t think a child would stop lying to me, or that one time I thought one of my kids would grow to be an atheist because of personality/behavioral flaws, or the one time a child was getting too close to people that I couldn’t exactly call Godly…. but we need to take these things in stride. The reason those things are allowed to happen is so that we know exactly how to pray for each one.

We do a lot of bouncing thoughts off of each other at the dinner table. We share views of the world, of people, of relationships. Through this they absorb more of our world view, how we look at things, how we handle what happens to us, how we struggle to keep our eyes and our feet directed towards True North as much we can. Each child gets the benefit of hearing from parents, older siblings, younger siblings. We hash out a lot here.

Would that our faith and our children’s hold as steady and ever-bright as the sun, but we know that too often they’re more like the flicker of a candle. We tend to it and try to protect it from getting blown out, but we have limits. As we grow older, we kinda need to lose our faith — the faith planted in us by our parents — and then find it again and own it. We cannot set our kids purposely on that path. There might be times when they’ll have to touch that darkness with the tip of their finger, to figure out that they want no part of it. Through circumstances or through their own mistakes, or through ours, they will let go of pieces of the whole that we’ve imparted to them, but like pieces of a puzzle long disappeared into basement storage boxes, when found, make us feel like it’s Christmas in July. Sometimes things — pleasant and otherwise — have to happen, for them to realize that they have the faith to sustain them through everything, including the trials. It was kept in store, maybe even hidden from their own consciousness, a treasure buried inside them that they aren’t always aware of, but it surfaces right when the need is there. This is how they learn how to hear God’s voice in their lives, in their own ears and in their hearts.

Prayers for all of us parents!!

Homosexuality and Real Solutions


In Part 1, I talked about the band-aid solutions offered by popular culture being inadequate to address the prevention of same-sex attraction/homosexuality itself.

Speaking to those causes listed by the Catholic Medical Association, I’d like to make the following suggestions, based on 22+ years of parenting experience, the collective wisdom of the parents and fellow Catholics I’ve networked with over the years, and books/authors that I’ve/we’ve read and that helped us in our parenting journey.

  • Parents need to learn how to be parents. If you come from a family where you weren’t exposed to positive parenting, network with like-minded parents who can give you information and guidance. Don’t be afraid to look at fruits. If they have kids who are polite, seem to be well-rounded and well-adjusted, have a positive outlook in life, are even-mannered, these are indications that the parents are doing something right. Ask them what they do. Your faith community would be a good place to start networking with other parents. There are family programs out there — look for them. One example is CFC-FFL. If you’ve got a homeschooling network in your community, that may be a good place to start as well; homeschooling parents tend to be very committed to their roles as children’s primary educators. Even if you don’t homeschool, you can learn a lot from them.
  • Parents need to be secure in their own sexuality. Network with parents who are clear examples of authentic femininity or masculinity, and who are not afraid or apologetic about their womanliness or manliness.
  • Addressing physical separation: For Catholics, I think it is essential that we educate ourselves on Catholic Social Doctrine. Children should not have to endure prolonged physical separation from their parents. Unfortunately, many are forced to endure this because of work. I think that one of the solutions we need to talk about as a society is how to bring the parent home. If this is an unavoidable situation, then the parent who stays home with the child needs to find suitable mentors within the community, within a parent network, within the Church, where children can be exposed to positive role models. Of course, this can be tricky especially in the current moral climate, so remaining ever-vigilant is key.
  • Many of the statements I’ve seen from LGBT reveal destructive behaviors of the father — abandoning the family, “starting over” with a second family, being an alcoholic, exposing children to pornography, etc. In one news article I read, a father beat up his own son after the son revealed that he was homosexual. These are parental behaviors that need to stop.
  • Parents, your children need to see you being affectionate with each other. It is in the home that they are first exposed to healthy expressions of love for each other — if mom and dad aren’t modeling these behaviors, where would they learn? We are educating our children with our actions, even more so than with our words.
  • Don’t skimp on physical expressions of love for your children. Hugs are spiritual and emotional vitamins, they need them on a daily basis. We give each other back rubs here at home; they do the spirit good.
  • Don’t forget four essential words/phrases: Please, Thank You, Sorry, I Love You. Say them often, say them and mean them. (If you think about it, these are the same sentiments found in the Lord’s Prayer, except we’re addressing them to our Heavenly Father.)
  • A shoring up of marriage and family is sorely needed. Develop an awareness of what’s happening globally in relation to parental rights and traditional marriage. There are many laws being proposed and advanced that undermine marriage and family. Our help is needed if we are going to stem the tide.
  • The parent-child connection needs to be established early on. One way to do this is to support/practice breastfeeding. Learn about Attachment Parenting. Network/share ideas with parents who practice this as well. Filipinos are naturals at this since it’s usually the way we were raised (family bed, close ties, etc.).
  • Addictions like alcoholism or substance abuse need to be addressed professionally. These are highly destructive to the family and will likely start/perpetuate a cycle that could have dire consequences.
  • Commit to spending time together as a family. Family dinners are a great way to connect with everyone at the end of the day. Guard this time fiercely. There should be nothing interrupting it like social media (cell phones at the table are a no-no).
  • Be picky about your friends and about your children’s friends. There is nothing wrong with this. You don’t choose to be friends with everyone, do you? Teach your kids to choose wisely.
    From Colleen Hammond:  http://www.colleenhammond.com/
    Used with permission, from Colleen Hammond: http://www.colleenhammond.com/
  • Read good parenting books, such as Hold On to Your Kids. More info here. You can listen to the first chapter here. Below are sample videos of the authors. You can find more on YouTube.

  • Be careful what you allow into your home. If you wouldn’t allow a prostitute into your home, there should be no reason you allow pornography into your home. If you are viewing pornography on your computer and you think your kids aren’t seeing you, think again. If you don’t want your child to read a certain book, or watch a certain movie, or listen to a certain song, ask yourself, what makes it right for ME to read/watch/listen to it?
  • Pray, pray, pray. Teach your children the power of prayer. Cultivate the habit of prayer in them by praying a family Rosary nightly, for instance. Say grace at meals.
  • Let them fall in love with the saints. They are powerful examples of people who chose to swim against the tide, often at great odds, to follow Christ. They will not lead your children astray.
  • Protect your child from harmful teasing, either from yourself, from siblings, or from other people. Teasing has different effects on children, depending on their particular sensitivities, personality, temperament. Some teasing can actually be perceived as a subtle form of bullying. Avoid inflicting emotional hurt; often these have the most devastating effects of all. A helpful book — life-changing, really — about learning to be a kinder, gentler parent is The Hidden Power of Kindness. If your child comes to you with a complaint that he is being teased, discuss ways on how he/she can respond; if necessary, talk to the parent of the teaser. That is your job.
  • Learn appropriate ways of expressing anger. I tend to be a yeller, so over the years, I’ve had to learn to tame this monster. I still have occasional outbursts; it’s something that needs to be worked on constantly. For Catholics, prayer, the Sacraments, getting to know the saints, are all immensely beneficial. If necessary, seek professional help.
  • Read up. There’s no reason in this information age not to be able to find help to help you improve your parenting skills. Fathers for Good is a good website. So are Catholic Mothers Online and Catholic Mom. There are many others.
  • Remember that your children are not yours, they are on loan from God. They are not your mini-me, and their personal journey will probably look very different from yours. They will make mistakes, just like you.
  • If you find you need to change something in yourself or your child, focus on one behavior at a time. If, let’s say, you go out and drink on a weekly basis with your friends, consider cutting that time down to once a month so you can spend more time with your children. Parents should ideally be spending the bulk of their time with family anyway, but I see this phenomenon happening everywhere, where parents still act like they’re singles even when there are children needing their time and attention. Know that how much time you spend your children will have lasting effects on their psyche.
  • If you don’t seem to have the communication skills necessary to effectively communicate with and parent your child, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is a classic that has helped countless parents. Some of it will come naturally to you, others will take work. At some point after you practice the skills in the book, you’ll find a way to personalize the techniques and make them your own.
  • When talking to your kids, speak from the heart. Nothing touches your child quite like knowing that you’ve been where they are. Share your sufferings from when you were young, tell them how you coped. If you’ve suffered from same-sex attraction, been addicted to pornography, etc., figure out a time when you can talk to your child about these things — you know best when they’re psychologically, mentally, spiritually prepared for that talk. But don’t wait until it’s too late.
  • Find wholesome ways to occupy your time. Sports are good. If your child isn’t interested in team sports, consider an individual sport like martial arts, where they can go at their own pace.
  • Find out and cultivate your child’s interests. If you can find a common interest you can pursue together, so much the better. In our home, it’s been martial arts and scouting. Find ways to bond outside the home.
  • Demonstrate moderation and self-control; your kids are watching you. Watch for addictive tendencies and behaviors.
  • Early on, encourage a positive view of the human body and sexuality. How you talk about sexual topics will affect how they see things. Catholic parents need to immerse themselves in the teachings found in JPII’s Theology of the Body. Talking about the beauty and sacredness of sex in marriage is not something we should be shying away from as parents, so if we don’t have the language or terminology to address these issues adequately, then this needs to become priority ASAP. There are way too many people out there eager to educate our children on things we are not willing or ready to educate them on.
  • Lastly, unconditional love and acceptance of children. This should go without saying, but sadly, very much forgotten today. Whatever problems our kids have to go through — bullying, a mean teacher, peer pressure, same-sex attraction, etc., we need to establish a relationship with them BEFORE THE PROBLEMS COME, so that WE are the first people they approach for help. We need to be their first line of defense.

Essential Reading:

Gravissimum Educationis
Divini Illius Magistri
Casti Connubii

Related Post: 100 Ways to Rebuild the Culture of Life

Musings and Inspirations

The Importance of Touch – shared by Elizabeth and found on my reader, so I am now a subscriber as well :). This reminds me of another thread at 4real — which I googled for and cannot find right now — about the importance of continuing to give our children the gift of touch.

It warms my heart so when I see dh hugging the kids, so I encourage him to do it and do it often. I myself who grew up in a more touchy-feely household, still have to remind myself to touch the kids several times a day, everyday. This is why quiet times are so important and should not be given up for the day’s chores or other “responsibilities”.

That moment in the morning when the kids are still warm from their beds is a chance to cuddle and get a few minutes of energizing love before we move on to the day’s activities. It doesn’t happen daily though. And would that I had 4 arms instead of the two. What’s funny (and frustrating) is how the kids often wrangle for the space closest to my heart — a very limited space in terms of square inches. Sometimes we take turns, sometimes we have to convince the older child to give way. Which is why it’s doubly essential to take the very next opportunity to hug that older child close, when they don’t have to compete with a younger sibling.

Quiet time in the afternoon, when people are sated by lunch and starting to get sleepy is another such chance to get close. A read aloud at this time is such a welcome treat, not just for the little ears (and by little I mean even up to the pre-teen, and sometimes even the teen) but for Mom too — it’s about this time I’m needing a break. But for some unexplained reason I don’t get sleepy as quickly as when I have two kids in the crooks of my arm and a book in my hands. I usually have enough energy to read a good-sized picture book, or a favorite Beatrix Potter, or one or two chapters of a longer book. And fifteen minutes of power-napping is PLENTY for me.

Then there’s the evening prayer. We haven’t yet graduated to kneeling, as the kids find this time very convenient for getting lengthy hugs from Dad and Mom. We sit on the couches praying our Rosary together, two kids per parent. We have to be careful with posture or we’ll be nodding off before the Rosary is over: another good reason to start early. We switch the kids around; planned or unplanned, it works. It has also made a difference in our overall disposition — we may have had some bad moments late afternoon when everyone is starting to get tired and gotten cranky and snippy, so the family Rosary brings us all back in and into a warm, loving mood. It’s very hard to stay angry at each other when one’s hugging the other. 🙂

I’ve also got a theory about touch — and why it’s so important that we continue giving our older kids this empowering gift, all the time. Besides touch refreshing one’s spirit short-term, it is such a deep, emphatic need that is so basic to our well-being… one that if not fulfilled at home, will have to be fulfilled elsewhere. Failing to touch our children, especially at the times when they need it most, is equivalent to pushing them away, into the company of others who are more than willing to provide that connection. If those others are well-meaning, mature loved ones (like doting grandparents, say) — then we are lucky. What if we’re not? I believe that some of our teens fall into sin, knowingly or unknowingly, because there is a need that is not being fulfilled at home. The sad part is that there are, indeed, predators just waiting to exploit this need. Or a sympathetic soul who has the same unmet longing.

I wonder how many teens could be saved from bad choices if we would only take the time to hug them today and everyday.

Continuing to read the Book of Numbers:

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
– Numbers 6:24-27

One of my favorite Bible passages, I remember using it on occasion to end my letters, many years ago when we first came to the US and there was no e-mail to stay in touch with old friends. I used to wonder why I sometimes would hear it at the end of Mass, and sometimes not. It turns out the Roman Missal includes it as one of the optional blessings Father can use (explanation from the Navarre Bible Commentary).

Another one from Numbers and Navarre, which is meaningful to me right now as I continue to learn and understand the beauties of Traditional Mass: Chapter 7, which details the tribes’ offerings to the Lord: Navarre’s explanation:

Once the Israelites settle down in Canaan they will always look back to their ancestors, in order to imitate them; in this particular case, to emulate their generosity in divine worship and the refinement with which they brought their offerings to the Lord in the temple.

An ex-co-worker used to needle me about the Catholics’ “wealthy Churches”. He hasn’t seen our minuscule Filipino churches filled with faithful people, mostly poor ones who probably don’t eat in one day what he ate in one meal. Dh’s father had one built in Bicol, partially from funds dh sent him when he started working here in the US. It’s probably as small as our living room and dining room combined. But that they offer Mass at that Church — actually more like chapel — the same Mass that we offer all over the world… is awesome to me.

On the one hand, it’s not the building or its accoutrements that are most important here, but how our hearts are disposed to receive Him. On the other hand, when we have the means to make a bigger offering — why not? Everything belongs to the Lord after all. We are called to give Him back the BEST of what He has given us. And less to the point, but still…. we Catholics don’t have the corner on beautiful, magnificent churches. There is a temple near us (I don’t know if it’s Islamic, Jewish, or what) that is gilded with GOLD on the outside features and roof. So far I haven’t met anyone who has complained about it being too gaudy or wasteful — adjectives I’ve heard used to describe our Catholic churches 🙁 .

About the menorah — I *love* finding explanations like this, of Jewish customs and traditions, in my very Catholic Bible!

The lampstand or menorah was a rich golden artifact placed beside the table of the offertory bread. [snip]… it was obviously a very important feature of divine worship, given that the lamps had to be kept burning all the time. The fact that the arms were seven in number indicates completeness. (note to self: I need to learn more about that 7=completeness thing) [snip] Rabanus Maurus says that “the seven lamps are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which abide forever in the Lord, our Redeemer, and in his members, that is, in all those chosen in keeping with his will”.

Though I haven’t seen it recommended, I think it’s nicely coincidental/providential that I should be reading the Book of Number during Lent, when we’re supposed to be in a spiritual desert…. the Book of Numbers, of course, is about the Israelites’ time in the desert. Its name comes from the Greek translation of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books) which called it aritmoi: numbers. (Hey, arithmetic!) The Jewish name for the book is Bemidbar — “in the desert”.