Do you remember what it was like to be 13, 16, or even 21? It’s easy to recall major life events of your adolescent years, but sharing an empathetic moment with your own teenage girl might be difficult as time erases our past emotions – no wonder we find raising teens challenging. The fact is, children, at any age, seem to think that we have been perpetually grown up and never dealt with peer pressure or the physical, emotional, and mental changes with which they are bombarded on a daily basis. The other problem is they are trying to become adults, and we are trying to prevent it from happening- at least for a while.
Drawing on Your Past
Sit alone for twenty minutes and try to picture yourself at your child’s age. What feelings – good and bad – can you recall without much effort? If you have problems with this exercise, you might want to spend more time on it and journal some of your findings. Likely, you will remember some traumatic events, emotional times, and the most joyful like family vacations or being with your best friend. Dig deeper into each memory; try to focus on how you were with your parents. How did you react to their discipline or lack there of? What was your favorite thing to do with your mom or dad? What things did you fear would be taken away if you broke the rules?
By forcing yourself to remember these events, you are preparing for the inevitable challenges facing you as a parent. Maybe you weren’t a restless teen girl or even disobeyed at all; but regardless, you have insight deep within your memory bank that will help with balancing the relationship you share with your children. They may not seem interested in hearing about your experiences, but I’d like to say, share anyway. I recall my mother telling me about her teen life and growing up in the fifties; I was fascinated by the differences and the similarities between the two of us. Kids will glean from your mistakes and victories. They really do listen, even if they have one ear plugged with the ipod jack.
Give Them Space to Grow
Patience truly is a virtue; one that goes a long way with raising teens. After all, they see how you act; they hear what you say; they do what you do. If you yell; they yell. If you are patient with them; they will be patient with you. It’s harder than just saying it, however. You must practice patience and respect. That is why kids usually don’t do either well; they haven’t been at it very long. For that matter, some of us parents haven’t either…if ever. Well, it’s not too late to start.
Teens need space to grow and mutual respect from us for their place in life. Just as we needed it when we were that age. Give them time to learn how they fit into the world and to your family. When they act inappropriately or make mistakes, don’t let them believe that they are the only ones who ever fail. You know we all disappointed our parents at some time or another. Tell them that you understand from experience…that sharing time I mentioned. This gives them hope that they can learn from mistakes and move on without feeling like their world is over.
The common ground you find with your teen is sacred…tread lightly. When you get there, move cautiously and with circumspect eyesight. Just when you think things are right as rain, the very solid ground you thought you were on could crack open and swallow you up. If it does, don’t worry; you’ll get it back. Teens move quickly in and out of love, like, maturity, and neediness like a relentless criminal weaving through traffic while he flees the cops…reckless! So, let them invite you to their territory sometimes instead of expecting them to come to yours. It’s precarious, but it can be a blast.
One of my favorite books on parenting is The Five Love Languages Teens/Love Talks for Families – Shrinkwrapped set. The information is precious and will help you discover how to communicate your love to your teen. Most importantly, remember it’s all temporary. Anything they or you go through will pass…convincing them of that reality is the hard part. If you have questions or comments about your life with teenagers, please post them in the comments section. We’d love to hear your about your experiences. Be well.