What happens to the child who was different from the rest of the family and was ignored and neglected during childhood? This is a family dynamic that deserves attention. Children need to be noticed, comforted and nurtured to help them find their way in the world. Some children are an easy fit for their parents while other children are much harder for the parents to understand and manage.
In some unfortunate situations, parents are unavailable (reasons may include having a demanding job, battling addiction, or personal issues) to provide the child with the needs mentioned above. In these cases, the child who is “missed” usually develops coping mechanisms. These ways of coping can become self-destructive as these children go through adolescence. When they become teenagers they may start drinking, using drugs, hanging out with a bad crowd, or doing poorly in school. As adults they can continue to struggle to find their way in the world and continue to do unhealthy things such as failing to finish schooling, quitting jobs, or generally not reaching their potential. These children have either given up on themselves or are continuing to look to their parents to make up for what they didn’t get while growing up. Many parents experience guilt over the kind of person their child has become and try to compensate for the shortcomings the child experienced while growing up. While the parents may feel they are simply trying to make up for lost time, they may actually be creating a whole new problem—an entitled and demanding son or daughter.
So what is the best thing to do for those who were shortchanged during childhood? Before anyone else can help, these individuals must first accept that they did not get the attention due them while growing up and regrettably nothing can be done to undo the past. Once this fact is accepted, they will then be able to start the process of healing and creating a new, more positive relationship with Mom and Dad.
The burden to correct past deficiencies is certainly not all on the children to fix. It requires the willingness of all parties, especially the parents. If parents continue to live in guilt and overindulge their children, there is no motivation for the children to do the work. They will continue to feel entitled and demand to receive now what they feel they missed out on earlier.
Once the children and parents acknowledge that the past cannot be changed, everyone can start to move forward and progress towards healthy relationships. This process can be greatly aided by an experienced counselor who has the tools and objective third-party perspective needed to help resolve tough family issues. And for those with a family business, dealing with these issues is even more critical since family dynamics have a sizeable impact on the business’ probability for Succession Success®.
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