Shame is the internalizing response to not meeting a standard that we place on ourselves or others place upon us. Much of our shame is slowly developed as we were growing up from many significantly small episodes of not being acknowledged. Not being recognized as having feelings about all the many situations that go on in young lives can be problematic.
The result of being dismissed by parents that aren’t emotionally available to their child’s needs, sends a message to that child you are not important. Being emotionally available requires a courage that we allow ourselves and our kids to be seen authentically.
Distracted, addicted, or parents in tumultuous relationships often lack empathy, patience and understanding in all aspects of their lives. Being able to be seen when we are vulnerable, having the courage to be imperfect and a sense of belonging are formed when empathy is present. It forms an intimacy that all humans need in order to be mentally healthy.
When parents are not able to be intimate with their children, this often sets up the mindset that the child thinks he is unworthy. These same parents often aren’t able to form an intimate relationship with any one else in their lives. They lack the skills that are necessary for intimacy, probably never learned from their own childhood emotional unmet needs. What this means is, their child goes on in life alone and not “feeling felt”.
It is very important to our kids that they know we are on their side, so to speak. They need to know we care more about how they feel than how they behave. If they understand that no matter what perceived social, family or especially religious standards are not met, they still matter.
Putting yourself in your child’s place for one day will help you recognize how many times they must meet expected adult behavior at school, church and home. Especially if you are a “helicopter parent” monitoring their every move and accomplishment to make sure they are on track (called hovering). The track being what the parent has decided the agenda for their child should be. Parents that are overly concerned with future colleges, treating grades, scores, accolades and awards, as the purpose of their childhood, are an example of what I call hovering.
Our job as parents is not to make our kids become what we have planned for them, but to build an environment that says be your glorious self. When we and our kids feel felt, understood and are accepted as who we are first, intimacy is present and shame never raises it’s ugly head.