There is a common school of thought that believes parents are parents and friends are friends and never the twain shall meet.
We completely understand this point of view and we remain respectful of every opinion however on this point, and in our clinical experience, we disagree. It seems to be a left over view from generations past that remains present in some families and let us tell you why we disagree.
In this modern era of social media there are less true friends than we may have experienced in our childhood.
Every week I see teenage clients that have hundreds (or thousands) of friends on social media yet they remain lonely and isolated, the one comment that remains common to them all? “I wish I could talk to my parents about this”, and this is why we need to be able to switch between a parenting role and a friendship role.
For a start let’s take a look at the role of a friend, what does a friend do that is so important?
They listen without judgment, they support you, they make you feel better, they give you their time, they make you laugh and they keep your secrets.
Now let’s take a look at the role of the parent (traditionally): The parent guides, gives advice, shelters you, provides a safe haven and gives you safe place to return to when you need it.
This all sounds great right? Well yes it is, it’s important, it’s valuable and it’s completely necessary but sometimes what your children really need is for you to be quiet, just listen, don’t try and solve their problems unless they request help, just sit quietly and listen.
Become your child’s confident, help them to laugh and feel supported, don’t judge their stories or their feelings, if they confide in you and it’s too much to handle just tell them “I love you and I’m so glad you feel like you can talk to me, sometimes I don’t know exactly what to say so can I just take a moment to think about this and then we can talk some more?”
It’s OK to be shocked or afraid when your child confides in you and it’s OK to take a moment to digest their information, in fact it’s an important lesson for your child as they are in turn learning how an adult processes information and how to think before they speak.
Can you be a friend to your child when they need you?
Can you listen without judgment? Can you stay quiet and not offer advice unless asked? Can you love and support your child? Can you keep this information to yourself?
Then congratulations because you are exactly the kind of friend your child needs.
Do you feel you are a friend and a parent? Please share in the comments below we’d love to hear from you.