Parental advice is something we all think about when we’re making decisions early in life. How do those decisions affect what happens later in life?
As we get older, we often speculate about what happened in certain parts of our childhood, and why. Some of us grow past it, for me, I just block it out of my mind for chunks of time. Then some other article, discussion, speech or picture will trigger memories, seemingly as vague as dissipating smoke from a cigarette. It’s no longer as painful. I don’t have to have answers. I now just like to explore.
The term, “failure to thrive” came up in a sermon recently. My mind spun back to when my dad once told me that I had a general breakdown when I was about five years old. He said I was in the hospital for a few days, but everything turned out fine. I asked a couple of times, but it was always the same explanation. In telling you this, you can guess my dad and I did not have a close relationship. After my dad died in 2013, my step mom told me stories. I wasn’t surprised he was a rolling stone of sorts, but I was in awe how she stayed with him all of those years.
At one point my sister, who since has also passed away, bluntly told me (after one of the many times I asked her about the “general breakdown”) said, “you were in the hospital for malnutrition”. This inspired a cloud of silence from me. The mystery how it happened and why dissipated. All of it came together then.
My birth mother suffered from a brain tumor, and was mostly but not always in a normally functional state of mind for a mother of two. My sister would go to school, mom to work, and at five, I stayed home alone. Yes. My stepmother is still doubtful, but I am sure. It was a lot of jelly toast and milk. Years after my birth mom passed, my dad always asked me if I had enough to eat. The other evidence was the visits to psychiatrists, speech therapists, and other doctors I still can’t pronounce their names and much less remember.
Our bodies acclimate to the training, climate changes, and fitness levels they are exposed to. Our careers and career advice lingers like cigarette smoke– useless, ready for consumption by those who unknowingly inhale it. Baby boomers and our children suck it up similarly. Or at least, until they get good advice. Once my best friend made this observation about raising money for a church activity: Fund-raising for churches doesn’t work if we’re only asking each other a donation. That is the way many of us absorb and dispense career advice.
When we are not preparing our teens for their careers in the right way, with appropriate tools and techniques, they too, will fail to thrive. Parents don’t have to pride themselves in irrelevance and give 1970s advice as college and adulthood loom, their ability to function in the job marketplace is incapacitated by us. You and your children, I find in my practice, have similar traits as “failure to thrive” can apply to them.
It’s their senior year in high school or college, and they are yet to get a job on their own. Simply, as students, they don’t grow because we as parents don’t grow. We make all of the excuses of why withstanding to just survive, but the closer we look at our lives and the amount of television, movies, and social life, we fail. Few of us know there is a career center or a professor more than willing to hold them accountable to engage and absorb lots of career advice and action.
The studies reveal it correctly, our children are unprepared for the working world. Many of them are graduating in June but never had an internship. Employers are no longer taking the responsibility of introducing graduate sons and daughters to the world of work. We are the primary advisor, not the school (unless their advice is better than ours).
This is scarier than the first two points, but for them, not for us. Many parents are quickly writing off their offspring because he or she is beyond legal age. My quandary in wondering in my past is still, “what did I do wrong?” We carry some of the responsibility to ensure our part is done. If our advice is imperfect, their curiosity will compensate for what it lacked.
Should memory and reality contradict one another, it will take years to figure out. We wander and wonder because the question of “what happened?” was never answered adequately. There’s no reason for our children to figure out how getting jobs work. Even if they won’t stay in their first post-graduate job but for a few months (and many millennials are doing just that), at least there is a likelihood they will see and desire something better.
Parents need to pass on more relevant advice as we have evolved—and yet I see parents giving advice from 1990. My body as a five-year-old only thrived as much as jelly toast and milk would allow it to. Once I was put on a better diet, I put on weight and grew muscle as it should. If there are answers you don’t have, send your children to where they can get better advice such as their career center at city colleges, university career centers, trade school center, career one-stop, or workforce connections.
Photo credit: Flickr/Thomas Ricker