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Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Two Pronged,
I’m a single dad of 11-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. We are having the best time with each other.
When I was 10, I recall that was when I started loving hanging out in my friends’ homes after school, or having them over in mine. I loved meeting them in the mall for movies. I am encouraging my kids to make plans with their classmates, but they both say that they are happy to see their friends in school, but don’t need to see them after that.
My question is, should I work with them to cultivate deeper friendships with their peers, and how, or should I just sit back and enjoy their company, knowing that at some point, they will develop all this on their own and then they will dread having dinner with me every night? By continuing to enjoy their full attention, am I contributing to the delay of their social skills that probably happened to everyone because of the two years of online schooling that happened with the pandemic? I know that when they start picking their friends over me, it will never go back to the way it is now, and maybe I’ll regret asking this question.
Act or relax?
Thank you for your message.
Parenting is an art for which there is no specific training. Although many people become parents, it is not taught in schools, perhaps because there are almost as many parenting styles as there are parents. Instead, people tend to rely on instinct or to be guided by their own personal experience as children, happy or unhappy, repeating their own parents’ perceived “successes” and trying to avoid their “failures.”
However, what was good for their parents is not necessarily appropriate for their children. Despite their genetic makeup, children are not facsimiles of their parents but unique individuals in their own right. Even twins have separate and distinct personalities, notwithstanding their particular similarities. Thus, parenting styles require fine-tuning to meet the specific needs of each child.
As for fostering social skills, if your children are well-integrated at school and enjoy socializing at home with the wider family (not just you) rather than just devoting their leisure time to their devices, then there seems every reason to maintain the status quo and to continue to nurture your relationship with them.
As to why your children do not want to see their school friends during their leisure time, they may wish to maintain a clear distinction between school (public space) and home (private space) and this may be influenced to some degree by the fact that you are a single parent and/or their special bond as twins.
So perhaps the best strategy to follow now is to allow them to develop at their own speed and in their own time, keeping an eye on their progress, and only intervening if a serious lack of socialization in the future warrants such action.
Thank you very much for your letter. I loved your question and shall start and end my answer by trying to answer it in the same short, hopefully engaging, but substantial manner, okay?
“Act or relax?” Actually, I would say, “Continue as you are now, BUT if you are looking for some ‘improvement,’ then maybe try and relax a wee bit more.”
One of a person’s most important developmental tasks is to recognize their own needs, and feel worthy enough to experience them when the time is right. They need this to be a competent, emotionally secure, and yes, loving human being.
Once you have reassured your kids that going out with their friends is something you wouldn’t mind at all and would, perhaps, even be happy about, each has, in turn, reassured you that they are fine exactly the way things are for the moment. A cornerstone of resilience is continuous self-reflection and personal growth.
Rather than trying to second-guess if they are merely trying to assuage your fears, trust them on this. If they spoke the truth, all will be fine. If they didn’t, or change their minds, they can always share this with you. Their being able to change their minds without having to rationalize is yet another developmental task the sooner they learn in their teen years, the better.
Your helping them achieve these tasks without being emotionally blackmailed is a gift no one else can really give them.
Dr Mehta, professor of medicine and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and medical director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has this to say about training clinicians:
“A cornerstone of resilience is continuous self-reflection and personal growth. Individual therapy or supervision can provide a safe space for clinicians to explore their emotions and experiences.
This intentional process enhances self-awareness and prevents the accumulation of unresolved issues that may hinder therapeutic efficacy.
Maintaining healthy boundaries is imperative for the well-being of both clinicians and patients. The wounded healer must discern between empathetic engagement and over-identification with patients’ struggles. Establishing clear professional boundaries ensures the therapist remains a supportive guide without compromising their emotional stability.”
The above, perhaps on a relatively less intense scale, is a developmental task for you to embrace.
Please let me know if this works out for you? If not, or even if it does, we would love to hear from you again.
Please send any comments, questions, or requests for advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.