We live in a noisy, chaotic society. Too often important things are said, but we never hear them. We are too distracted with what the world says is important. We all want to be listened to. Why is that? Because good listening fulfills three of our most deeply felt human needs, needs that cannot be really fulfilled in any other way.
We all need to vent our feelings and find a healthy outlet for them. Within each of us is that need for emotional intimacy. Lastly, and probably most important of all, we have an overwhelming need to have our self-esteem validated and affirmed.
Thus, when we feel rejected or not listened to, our self-esteem is weakened. It is hard to feel whole or complete. Too often when we are in that state, we tend to second guess ourselves and feed our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. At those times, teenagers are most vulnerable to making bad choices.
As parents, do you really listen to your children? Do you hear what they are not saying? Or, are you lost in the noise of a world that is very narcissistic and self-serving?
Listening effectively means being present with one's mind and heart. You cannot really listen, if you are watching a ballgame or fixing the car. Simple distractions can often block or distort some very vital information that might be critical to your parent child relationship.
Mr. & Mrs. T. are very loving parents. They have three high school age children. The oldest is seventeen and a senior. He is a good student and athlete.
The second child is an eleventh grader. He too is a good student and athlete, but definitely walks to a different drummer. He is very verbal and independent.
Their third child is a ninth grader. She is a girl, a brilliant student, but not an athlete at all. Her excitement is the theater and the school orchestra. She is outstanding in both.
As a family, they are very close and supportive of each other. They have dinner together every night and go on family vacations together. But, there is tension.
On the surface, they look like the all American family. They seem to do all the right things, and for the most part they do. However, they are being victimized by a world that is being paralyzed by subtle noise and chaos.
Their once stable family meal has become like the automat. People gather, eat in ten minutes and leave for an important school or business related activity. The family conversation that was once very focused and productive is now very fragmented and disjointed.
On the surface, everyone seems to be managing, except for the second son, A.J. A.J. is the middle child. He's the child that walks to a different drummer. Externally, he does all the right things. Like his big brother, he is a good student and athlete. Unfortunately, internally he is very conflicted and tormented. He has tried to share some of this struggle, but no one has heard his cry above the noise and chaos.
Once very interactive at dinner, A.J. now always eats and runs, even if he doesn't have to. He is finished in ten minutes and is off. The eat and run dynamic for A.J. is new, but with the chaos of the dinner hour, no one even noticed that A.J. was shutting down. They did not hear him even yell for some assistance. It was masked in some other issues, but once unraveled, it was clear that he had been reaching out, but no one heard him.
A.J. just withdrew more and more. He became more of a fringe member of the family, when he was once the center of activity and fun for the T.'s. Everyone was so concerned with his or her own stuff that no one saw what was happening.
A.J. continued to do well in school and sports, but disconnected from friends. He was spending more and more time by himself. The alarm sounded when an English teacher asked his class to write a reflection paper on "How They See Themselves Now." The teacher urged them to be totally honest. A.J. took that assignment to heart. His paper was so troubling that the teacher showed it to the Principal. The Principal in turn felt compelled to meet with A.J.'s parents.
The paper was well written, but the content was devastating for Mr. & Mrs. T. A.J. talked about dying of loneliness. He expressed that for months he had been crying out at home just for someone to talk to and no one heard him or responded. His feelings of abandonment were devastating.
He went on to write how he felt his life was without purpose, meaning or direction. His cry was for support so that he could look more closely at these concerns.
As the days went into weeks, the silence had become deafening. So, to ease the pain, A.J. had started drinking and smoking pot. He only did this at night after he had finished his homework before he went to bed, never at school. He could not believe that no one noticed. The on-going lack of awareness only furthered his hurt and his desire to numb the pain. So the behavior continued.
Finally, he got drunk one Friday night before his curfew and passed out on a street bench. The police saw him slumped over. They stopped, smelled the alcohol and called an ambulance. Upon examination, the emergency room physician said A.J. was severely intoxicated. They pumped his stomach, called his parents and he went home.
The T.'s were mortified. A.J. was totally embarrassed. No one spoke that night. The next day A.J. let the floodgates open. His parents were shocked. They never realized how bad things were. They never realized how much they had missed, how blind and deaf they had been to their son.
There were a lot of tears shed that morning and a lot of hugs. A family that was almost destroyed discovered redemption before it was too late. They all agreed that they needed to be more attentive to each other in the midst of the noise. They
agreed to never again allow the chaos of life to blind them from what was really important.
This is the story of a good family who went beyond the noise and chaos to listen and renew their family. However how many families won't get the chance and will be destroyed by the noise and their deafness?