Child-rearing is a stressful experience, especially in modern society with its fragmented values, dual parent employment, divorce, and loss of extended family support. Parents of teenagers may experience the greatest stress of all.
They are faced with the difficult task of guiding young people who are in the midst of a dramatic, and sometimes turbulent, transition from childhood to young adulthood.
With the onset of puberty come the dangers associated with sexuality and pregnancy, substance abuse and automobile use issues that heighten parents' apprehension and may increase conflict with their teenagers. Continued stress and frustration can wear parents down, diminishing their sense of self-worth and creating tension between spouses.
Parent self-esteem is important for two reasons: First, we act consistently with our beliefs and feelings about ourselves. If a person believes something is true, that belief affects his or her actions just as though it were actually true. A parent who believes he is inadequate will fail to take positive action. A parent who believes she is weak and powerless may respond by over- controlling her teenage children.
Second, our perceptions of the world around us are affected by our self-esteem. Our beliefs about ourselves, our children and our relationships can act as a spotlight that draws our attention to events that confirm those beliefs. Parents who believe they are failures will notice their mistakes more than their successes. Those who believe they are unloved may notice every little rejection and overlook expressions of affection by their children.
Our beliefs about others also serve as a screen or filter that can distort our observations. Parents who believe they are stupid may attribute their successes to good luck, fate, or the intervention of another person. A parent who believes her daughter uses drugs may interpret any suspicious behavior as a confirmation of drug use. Parents who are insecure with their own self-image may underreact by withdrawing or overreact by dominating. Their insecurity prevents them from making an accurate assessment of the situation and choosing a reasonable response to solving the problem. Both extremes domination and withdrawal are ineffective and damaging to self-esteem.
K-State Research and Extension has a publication called, Self Esteem in Parents and Children that outlines the developmental tasks related to self-esteem that face young children, grade schoolers and adolescents, as well as the special pressures parents may face with each of these age groups. Key issues underlying parents' self-esteem also will be summarized.
Copies of I'm Positive: Growing Up With Self-Esteem (S-31) and Self Esteem in Parents and Children (MF-955) are available at the McPherson County Extension Office at 600 W Woodside in McPherson or can be viewed online at www.ksre.ksu.edu/publications.