You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.
—Ernest Hemingway, American author and journalist
For years, we joked that my mother was the “Queen of Denial.”Although we laughed about it, her ability to ignore what she did not want to deal with could be frustrating. The house could fall down around her, and she would not even acknowledge it. The fact that she has dementia now, while difficult for her and our family, is a blessing in a way. I think it is my mother’s way of coping with the challenges that aging has brought her, and I am grateful for the peace that denial now brings her. Denial in parenting though, does not help us face situations that need attention. Instead, it prevents us from experiencing the uncomfortable feelings that precipitate change.
Denial of our children’s problems does not help our children in the way that they need however, denial can be sneaky and insidious. It fools us into believing what we want without even knowing it because denial works very hard to protect its dysfunction. Truly taking stock of a situation, being receptive to change, and accepting the truth of our experiences, however uncomfortable, helps break through that denial. If our children are in trouble and need direction or resources, pretending the problems don’t exist only prolongs the inevitable and keeps a possible solution at bay, even if that solution is only acceptance for now.
I have witnessed instances of parents using denial to keep from confronting the issues their children were having: drugs, self-injury, eating disorders, cheating, suicidal thoughts, bullying, and so on. It has been frustrating as a school counselor to present direct evidence of a problem, only to have a parent minimize it and explain it away. But as a parent, I understand the insidiousness of denial because I have been there. It is different when the problem hits close to home; you can be blinded by what you do not want to face.
Be open to looking at your children’s situations from a less defended point of view when your children are struggling, when others point out an issue, or when things just don’t feel right to you, and you may see areas that need attention.
At that point, you will be open to receiving the help you need to address those issues and support your children in the ways they need.
Are there any areas of your children’s lives that you could be in denial about? Is there an area that needs attention but is difficult to face? If so, give some thought to alternate ways of dealing with those situations. Get some objective advice, talk with trusted sources, seek out resources, and most importantly, be honest about your own feelings