The subject today is about parenting and unconditional love, and is a follow-up to last week’s entry: http://mentalemotionalhealth.com/2008/03/10/where-discipline-and-love-connect/ . It is expected that parents love their children unconditionally, whether their children are infants, teens, or adults. For some parents though, unconditional love gets tougher for parents as their children get older.
It seems the main reason I’ve heard for this is that as children get older, they become more aware of what to do or what not to do. Some parents start taking it personally when their child gets past a certain “age of accountability”, and then the child is disobedient or forgets how to show the proper attitude in every situation. In such cases you could say that parental love develops “conditions” as parental expectations increase.
Children do not have an adult brain with all of its functions, and teenagers do not have a fully-developed personality. Why then do we expect them to? For several years, a teen’s job is to figure out what life is about, and how they will fit into it.
I wish I remembered where I read this, but years ago I saw an article that suggested adolescence may last into a person’s mid-20’s. From personal experience that made sense to me. I still noticed myself trying to take the easy way out of certain things instead of applying my own skills and determination up until the age of 24. I count myself truly blessed to have parents that continued to love me unconditionally despite my hesitancy to grow up in my early 20’s. In fact, knowing that parental love was there no matter what was one of the main factors that motivated me to mature and take more self-responsibility.
So when it comes to parenting, remember that your children do not know everything yet about how to be a person. If conditions are attached to the love parents have for children, that will teach children to set conditions on their own love, in romantic relationships or as a future parent. But knowing that they are loved unconditionally allows them to explore and grow despite mistakes and missed opportunities.