I have a tendency to take things personally–or at least I used to. I imagine that twenty years of being in the parenting trenches has toughened my skin a bit. Now, I occasionally feel as though I am lacking sensitivity and being a big too jaded when interacting with my kids. I suppose the goal is to achieve some balance between being sensitive to our children’s feelings and needs (and our own) and not being so sensitive we are unable to make objective choices and decisions.
We can become overly enmeshed with our children and so sensitive that we take on each and every discomfort as a personal concern. This can be as immobilizing to ourselves and our children as when we are cold and unfeeling. There is a difference between being empathetic and caring and being overly-sensitive. With too much sensitivity, our emotions can be a roller-coaster and keep us from being available as a parent. Sometimes kids with overly-sensitive parents feel that they can’t relax and be themselves, and say what they want or need to say, because their parents will take things too personally.
On the flip side, a lack of sensitivity on the part of a parent can be damaging too. I know firsthand how easy it is to get so thick-skinned that you’re determined not to get sucked into one more childhood drama. But being too unfeeling or lacking empathy on a regular basis can make our kids feel unloved and misunderstood. If they feel like they can’t find empathy at home, they are more likely to go elsewhere and be influenced by the wrong sorts of people.
Doesn’t it seem that so many things in the world of parenting and family life come down to balance? Finding a way to be sensitive to our children’s needs and emotions without getting swept away is just one more challenge for the conscientious parent.