Let me tell you about Waylon.
Waylon grew up in a home where nothing he did pleased his parents. If he did well in school or in an activity, they didn’t seem to care. If he did horribly in school or in an activity, they didn’t seem to care. No matter what Waylon did in his young life, his parents mostly responded with, “Don’t bother me.”
Fortunately, Waylon had brothers and sisters who took care of each other. They stepped in and tried to love and support each other when it became clear that their parents didn’t care.
This is the environment in which Waylon became a teenager.
This is where I met Waylon and his family. They were going through a nasty divorce. Allegations of drug and alcohol abuse were thrown back and forth. Mom accused Dad of drugging and sexually abusing her. The dad said she was just an addict and crazy. She countered that he was stalking her and had hired men to keep track of her whereabouts. It got real ugly, real fast.
You can imagine what it does to a child’s world when he is shown that no one cares for him, and then those same people rip everything that he does have apart. It was devastating to Waylon and his siblings. They were split up and lived in different homes. The only real family support they had was now gone.
Waylon despised his mom and the way she lived her life. Her new life was a murky haze of drugs and alcohol as she tried to deal with life. With no real coping skills, she turned to self-medicating to escape her perceived pain. Waylon saw what was going on and hated her for it. Unfortunately, he also saw that she could escape through her drugs.
I remember going to the psychiatric hospital and visiting him in the children’s ward. It was not a place where any child should have to be. It was very brightly lit but somehow drab. Screams echoed off the walls and pounded on your ear drums. It was a place of brokenness where innocence had been stolen. It broke my heart to see Waylon here.
He had been committed because he had gone into a drug-fueled rage, and that rage had fallen on his family. Waylon was dragged away from his home kicking and screaming in handcuffs. At the age of 14, he was driven off to the sounds of sirens and his own cries.
Since that time, Waylon has seen juvenile detention centers and rehab clinics several times. He has yet to reach 18 but has seen and experienced a life most adults only see in the movies. It has truly been a heartbreaking life for this young man.
His parents were and are neglectful. They are what’s termed as “Uninvolved Parents.” I’m saddened that this is a parenting style, but it is. The term tells you everything you need to know about that parent. They are not encouraging or discouraging. They do not care what their children do and often tell them this.
And just like Waylon, kids who grow up in this environment do not do anything well. Life is a struggle for them. They aren’t taught how to cope with adversity on any level. They fall behind in school and tend to not do well in either college or in the workforce. Children that grow up with the uninvolved parent are emotionally crippled for life.
Children who have dismissive parents will grow up being afraid of depending on anyone. They are emotionally withdrawn and often suffer from severe anxiety. The chance of substance abuse is incredibly high for them, and unfortunately, they will most likely continue the abusive cycle with their own children.
Now, not all parents who are uninvolved or dismissive are drug addicts or horrible people. And that is where the real danger lies. Parents can love their children but become so overwhelmed with work, life, or dealing with depression that they become hands-off to their children. These parents unwittingly communicate horrible things when this happens.
So how do we make sure that we don’t slip into these tendencies that can cause a lifetime of hurt? Here are some tips.
All you need is love.
The song is so right! You will never go wrong with loving your children. Express this verbally and physically. Tell them you love them, and make sure that you hug and kiss them. Be the one to wake them up and be the one to put them to sleep. Make sure that you can be at games, presentations, plays, concerts and recitals. Just being present in their lives lets your children know that you love them.
You may not realize this, but if you set high expectations for your children, they will work toward those. I’m not talking ridiculously high and unreal expectations. You should set your expectations higher than they would on their own. Then you should do all you can to encourage them in those goals. Work alongside your children to help them reach that potential you know they have.
Doing so communicates that you believe in them and their abilities.
Tell your kids no.
I’ve written about this one before and most likely will again. Saying no to your children tells them you care about what they are doing and that you love them. Boundaries communicate that you want your teen’s life to be successful and that you don’t want to see them hurt. When your child hears no they may not like it in the short-term, but over the long haul they will see that “no” can be its own love language.
Make time for your kids.
Life gets hectic. That’s just the way it is. Between work, sports, school and whatever else you have going on, there may be little time left for just your kids. Make it a priority to be with your children. If that means that certain parts of your life need to be reprioritized, then do it.
Do not brush your kids off, because they will take the hint. Make sure they see that they are important through the time you spend with them.
Waylon and his mom are no longer in my sphere of influence. I was able to help that family for a short time because they were close by and were open to my help. But the moment they moved away, the cycle started over.
Unless something or someone intervenes, Waylon is destined for a life of brokenness. It’s all he knows. It’s all he’s ever been taught. And it’s everything to him.