In the name of Allah the Most Gracious
the Most Merciful.
May He bestow His peace and blessings on His messenger, Muhammad, his family, Companions, and all of those who follow them sincerely.
As salamu `alaykum…
Dear sister, thank you for writing us with your concerns. As a wife and mother, the situation you are dealing with must be a difficult one for you. As you love your husband and son both very deeply I’m sure, you are probably quite torn on how to meet the needs of both parties and bring peace to your home.
Unfortunately, it is a very materialistic world we are living in. Materialism syndrome is a disease that is affecting youth and adults in many countries, so know that you are not alone in trying to combat this. The excessive materialism that parents are facing now requires teamwork and dedication to raising children in a home that is filled with love, support, discipline and understanding. We must do our best to create an environment in our homes where parents work together to provide our young people with all they need to face the often vicious world outside. This begins with the parents and the parental relationship. When parents are working together, on the same page, supporting one another and helping each other this can occur. If not, then it might be a difficult situation, which is probably what you are feeling right now. Parents are the ones with the ability to dictate the culture of the home.
They set rules, they instruct, they dictate patterns of living and lifestyle and others. When parents are working as a team, they can be a powerful force in molding their children in a positive way. However, if the parents’ relationship is strained or prone to fighting and a lot of disagreement, the children will undoubtedly bear the brunt. This negative culture will greatly impact on the children in numerous ways.
Teenage children like your son also need a stable father who can befriend them, and who can help and guide them into adulthood. There is a saying by Sayyidina `Ali (RA), who in reference to rearing children is reported to have said:
“Play with them until they’re seven, give them discipline until they’re fourteen, be their friend until they’re twenty one, then untie the rope.”
In the earlier years, it is very important for the young children to have that strong bond with the mother, but as the children mature and grow, especially in the teen years, it is very important for the father to play a bigger role in the child’s life. As your son approaches 17, I believe his behaviors and reactions are no doubt being fueled by the negative circumstances surrounding both your husband as well as the family life in the house in general.
Lies, deceit and the like – as you have pointed out – don’t work and appears to be causing your son a lot of resentment toward his father. However, you should avoid the trap of taking sides with your son, at least openly, and do all that you can to repair your relationship with your husband, stressing on the importance of having a strong, peaceful marriage for the sake of yourselves, your family and your son’s well-being. Children are often the barometer for what’s happening in the family, so if the children are having problems of a social, emotional or psychological nature, it is often due to something that is not working within the larger family system. Your husband and you need to be on the same page as best you can when it comes to raising your son. The nature of your relationship will set the tone for the whole house, and your children will draw from your example in their own lives. It is of primary importance.
It also sounds from your question that you need to help your son understand your father’s situation, and try and facilitate their relationship. Help your son to understand that your husband is struggling, and needs everyone in the family’s support. At the same time, help your husband to understand why he needs to be honest with not only his son, but the whole family and that together with Allah’s help, you can – as a team – tackle any problem that comes your way, in sha-Allah. Deep, dark family secrets have the power to cast a very negative shadow on a home. Bring some of them into the light of truth, and try to use these opportunities to bring more unity and togetherness to the family. Come up with ways where you can all chip in and contribute to the well-being of the family, with each member playing a role.
Rather than dumping all the responsibility and pressure on your husband, work with him to come up with ways that everyone can help to make the home a more peaceful and pleasant place. You can get many ideas about how to do this from this website and others such as soundvision.com.
The power of unity and cooperation – especially within the family – can, in sha-Allah, be harnessed to overcome many problems. However, it starts with consciousness of Allah and the conviction that Allah’s help is always at hand when we are able to put our personal frustrations, grievances, and petty complaints to the side for the sake and betterment of the whole. This is what we must live and teach our children, both through our actions and words. And this is what parents must teach their children through example.
Lastly, it sounds as if your son is feeling a lot of stress from the various pressures and lack of support he is getting from the home. The last thing he needs right now is more pressure to do well in his studies. Preaching to him about the matter, and using Islamic references as you say is only going to increase the pressure on him and make matters worse. Young people hate being preached to, and by using the words of Allah and His Messenger, it makes it sound even more serious. The last thing you want to do is to scare your son away from Islam, but by using it to increase his feelings of pressure and stress that is what you are going to do.
Rather, why not ‘use’ Islamic teachings to show him how to relieve some of that stress, but not in a preachy way. Give him ideas on how to deal with stress and how to approach his responsibilities in a manner that will relieve stress, not create more of it. Don’t use Islam to preach to him why he needs to study more, for example, but rather teach him about the importance of living a balanced life or how acts of charity and kindness can be the greatest stress reliever there is. In other words, don’t scare your son away from Islam by identifying Islamic teachings with the very thing that is causing him stress to begin with! Seek the oceans of wisdom and spiritual tools from our tradition that can help him understand himself and his life better and cope with being a teenager in this age of materialism.
And Allah knows best….
For further guidance, please try the following links:
Students Can Earn as They Learn
Teens and Stress: Parents, Please Listen Up!
Guiding the Ones You Love
What Parents Know and More...
The Loving Touch, The Loving Eye ...