As a young child, I was very sheltered and very spoiled. I carried my multi-colored children’s radio around the house and clenched the mic in my free hand as I poured out country music songs. I filled my childhood home and everyone else’s with singing – I was certain I was going to be a star one day. I had my own entourage that never left my side, and as the only child for eight years, I couldn’t fall and scrape my knees without someone running to my rescue. I had everything I could ever want (ok, except that horse I asked for every year). Who am I kidding – I was spoiled! There was no doubt that my parents loved me, and although my dad was rarely around, I knew he loved me too. I wasn’t a daddy’s girl, but I still cling to fond memories of the times we spent together. We weren’t very close, but I loved the quality time we did have together, even if it only did happen once in a blue moon. Although he wasn’t around very much, he always made sure I had everything I could want or need when it came to material possessions. He was a great financial provider and I was far from ever being needy of anything that was tangible.
We easily came off as the average American family, but as the years passed my sheltered view of the world began to crumble within my own home. Threats, addiction, greed, and turmoil continuously grew, and my sense of safety and stability trickled away. Emotional connections lacked, and as I began to enter pre-adolescence, material possessions became a temporary substitute for the attention I was desperate to receive.
As the problems began to mount up, my nails met my skin and my self-injurious coping began at ten years old. Entering life as an overly talkative, confident child, I faded into a shy, quiet, speck on the wall. Regardless of how difficult some thought I was becoming, there was one thing I knew I wanted – to be wanted. Unfortunately, the void wasn’t being filled by my family, and so my journey began.
Emotional and social support is a vital component particularly in childhood and adolescence that can be easily minimized. Nothing can replace the need of these things, even material possessions. Through marital issues, past issues, career problems, and life problems in general, balancing your own life, life problems, and supporting your kids can be a difficult task. Most parents, rather successfully or not, do what they know and what they can for their children. They don’t wake up thinking “I don’t care what happens to my child”, but rather, just like anyone else, they tend to live out what they’re familiar with unless they step out of the cycle.
Children (including teenagers) thrive when primary support does not fail. Primary support includes the following: loving, companioning, touching, informing, listening, encouraging, approving, and empathizing (Wiley, 2013). Parent/child relationships are emotionally sustaining when primary support is enacted because the child feels secure. This never loses importance, no matter how old the child is.
This alone makes parenting emotionally expensive, but in the end, less emotionally expensive with parent or child throughout the years.