What about a widow who starts dating a great guy and is having fun, feeling like a teenager again – but her two teenagers aren’t pleased? They become angry and start treating her in a mean way. This widow is experiencing “don’t change” messages from her children. The message comes in many forms: sabotage, cold silence, shouted insults and refusal to cooperate. The idea is “I don’t like the new you and want you to go back to the way you were”.
The children aren’t really thinking about their Mom’s feelings. They are fighting for their lives – or at least life as they knew it. When their father died, they had become a tightly knit threesome, united against the world. They don’t want to share Mom with her boyfriend, because that requires them to become more independent of her and that makes them fearful.
For the kids to mature, they will have to redefine their roles within the family. The widow will have to successfully resist their attitude and not revert to familiar behaviors, because of course that is exactly what they want.
When kids launch into a “don’t change” attack against you, refrain from resisting or submitting and just pay attention. Remember that whether you realize it or not your actions are forcing them to also change. Respond with: “Tell me”, “I’m listening” and “I hear you”, listen calmly as your angry teenager lambastes you because of your new love. Now breathe and relax. Honestly consider the feedback you’ve just received and if they have some good points, alter your direction. Or if their complaints are just fear based, you must keep going, trusting that the best gift you can offer them is your own happiness.
Your secret weapon is your unconditional love for them, and I encourage you to use it with ruthless abandon. At best, this approach will cause your children to stop, ponder and perhaps feel less scared by considering your feelings. Doing this cheerfully and unabashedly will confound your kids by giving them nothing to oppose.