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Royal Mourning Periods Ends, a Look at the Downside of Expectations

The official Royal Mourning Period has ended as of today.

This is according to an Instagram post from The Royal Family. In an article by PureWow, this announcement was discussed in more detail. The more than thirteen million followers of theroyalfamily were treated to a stunning photo of the young queen in the post.

As part of that mourning period, the Royal family had gathered to honor Queen Elizabeth, who died at 96 on September 8, 2022. Many British citizens in the UK and around the world are mourning, having never experienced life without Queen Elizabeth in power. 

The Queen’s children and grandchildren may publicly praise her, while privately may be struggling with painful emotions, including grief over her passing, grief over what could have been if she had behaved differently as a mom, and perhaps some uncertainty about the future of the kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth was raised with the expectation that she held a role within the royal family. She was not in line to become the Queen until her uncle, Edward V, abdicated. With expectations of her children following in her footsteps, the Queen used the same methods her parents used in raising her to raise her own young family.

Typically, parenting follows the example of the previous generation, and in this case, the children are pushed into higher society, where expectations and appearances rule over other concerns. “Better to be seen and not heard.” Add to this the British culture of keeping a stiff upper lip, passed on for generations, causing many to disallow their emotions. 

This is not intended to be an exposé of the Queen’s parenting. She did the best she could given the rules, expectations, and understandings of child-rearing at the time. This article explores the societal expectations relating to royal behavior that kept the royal family hemmed into roles that could produce dysfunction. Well-meaning parents who hold lofty expectations for their kids may not be aware of the damage those expectations can do to their child’s emotional health.

The unintended consequences of societal expectations on Royals

The royal children were primarily brought up by nannies and other caregivers, only seeing their parents for breakfast or tea time. In Prince Charles’ and Princess Ann’s formative years, the Queen was away for months at a time, leaving the toddlers at home. Certainly, they were well cared for by various caregivers, but the detached experience of parental love can emotionally damage children. Prince Charles once described his mother as “not so much indifferent, as detached.”

Reportedly, Prince Charles was sent by his father, Prince Phillip, to a boarding school to ‘toughen’ him up. The school was famously known to be difficult. According to an article in Reader’s Digest Australia, when Charles fell sick with the flu, his mother wrote him a letter and proceeded to board a plane for a royal tour in Canada. From a child’s perspective, the expectations of the Crown appeared more important to the Queen than her son’s needs.

To a child, this subliminal message is that their needs are subordinate to the “needs” of the state. This has enormous potential to undermine the child’s ability to adequately express themself, care for others, or forge significant and long-lasting relationships. The child may decide, “I don’t matter.”

Breaking the cycle of trauma

Babies need a stable and caring environment to feel safe and trust in; somewhere their physical and emotional needs are met. When this does not happen, children may experience reactive attachment disorder, a condition where a child does not form healthy emotional bonds with their caretakers (parental figures). They may develop lifelong issues with relationships and mental health. While the royal children may have had their needs met by staff members, they most likely experienced disassociation from their parents.

Prince Harry talks about how his mother went to significant effort to bring normal life to William and Harry within the confines of the expectations of the palace. The Prince also recognizes that the environment in which his father was raised in brought him emotional pain and suffering.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, decided to break the cycle of generational trauma. In an article with Livingly, Prince Harry wrote, “I started to piece it together and go ‘okay, so this is where he went to school, this is what happened, I know this about his life, I also know that is connected to his parents so that means he’s treated me the way he was treated, so how can I change that for my own kids?” 

The couple gave up their right to the Crown, instead choosing to raise their children in a loving and supportive environment without societal expectations – an incredible decision and outstanding expression of love for their children.

What do these insights teach the average, modern-day parent? 

Several layers of expectations were apparent in the royal family dynamic, including societal, parental, and, likely, even high expectations of self. Expectations can be beneficial, yet they can also be damaging. Tony Robbins teaches that expectations lead to disappointment. He is a proponent of living an expectation-free life to achieve inner peace and happiness.

Parental expectations

While there is a difference between setting boundaries and having expectations, there is some overlap. Boundaries are essential because they teach children the expected behavior in different circumstances. Boundaries teach children the distinction between church behavior and schoolyard behavior.

Expectations coming from parents are helpful if they consider the gifts and desires of the child and help the child set goals. 

Expectations which focus on the parent’s desires while ignoring the child’s desires could be damaging. We have all heard of a parent who expects their child to follow in their footsteps, becoming a doctor, lawyer, or other professional, simply because the family has held that job for generations. These expectations can appear in wanting the child to be something the parent was not (i.e. a football player), fulfilling the parent’s fantasy through the child. This ignores the wants, needs, and desires of the child. When those expectations bind a child, the child is set up for emotional trauma. 

Even well-meaning parents have expectations that can crush their children’s dreams. In the Pixar film, Float, we see a young father whose son is gifted with the ability to float. His father is determined to have his son fit into society, so he does all he can to change his son to fit into “social norms.” He puts his son on a leash and weighs him down with rocks. The father, in his efforts to “save” his son from ridicule, damages his son by teaching him that it is unacceptable to be himself. Which lesson is worse for the child? The chance that society will judge him as different or the message from his father that it is not okay for him to be himself?

Each child is unique, with unique gifts and challenges. Our role as parents is to allow our children to express their individuality, creativity, gifts, and feelings. When we try to save them from difficult lessons, we may be causing them unintended pain. 

When considering expectations for your children, ask yourself what the motivation behind the expectation is. Is it truly in the best interest of the child, or is it based on how you and your child may be perceived by society? Is your expectation based on your past, or have you considered the child’s best interests? Examining these motives can help you choose expectations that support your child in becoming their best self.

Angela Legh is an International Freelance Author, an International Bestselling Author, and Motivational Speaker. She is passionate about promoting emotional intelligence with her book series The Bella Santini Chronicles.

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