Parenting is difficult. Parenting a teen can be even more so. You have this young person that believes with all of him that he is perfectly capable of making his own decisions and in many ways believes he is every bit as smart as you are. I have been deeply involved in the livesof many teens, with varying histories, personalities, goals, drives and aspirations.
Because society places so much emphasis on the teen years and due to the fact that it is the stage before adulthood, we typically enter it with all sorts of parental fears and hopes. It’s the final stage before we unconsciously determine whether or not we have successfully taught our child everything they need to know about the world. Well guess what? We haven’t. The very act of determining whether or not you have equipped your child with all the lessons he’ll need throughout life is a distortion. In fact, the teen years is much like a college education, it’s not till after you get the piece of paper that you are actually really going to learn.
The problem is that we usually go into raising teens with so much anxiety about their future that we actually forget about raising them in the present. There is no stage more important in all of development for securing a relationship with your child than in the teen years. Yet, most of us lose the relationship with our child during this time. Our anxiety and fears turn us into demanding, threatening, and controlling dictators rather than into the compassionate, understanding, and flexible guides that are needed, and oftentimes required. It’s funny to think that if we really wanted to understand the essence of teen parenting all we really need to do is reflect back on our own needs during that stage and time. Not compare your child to you at that age but rather ask yourself, “When I was a teen what did I need most from my parents?”
When I was a teen, I needed someone, anybody to pay attention to me emotionally, to be present and engaging. I needed my dad to tell me that he was proud of me. That he was impressed by my independent work ethic and drive. And that he looked forward to seeing me successful. I needed my mother to be affectionate, supportive, and nurturing and I also needed her to hug me and tell me how proud she was of me; to ask about what I was thinking, focusing on and where I was headed. Not in a judgmental way but in love and curiosity. The teen years don’t have to be that tough and certainly not anything you need to fear. But because of the way we were raised we will be challenged to do something different. It all comes back to understanding, for action without understanding will only lead us back to confusion. Choose today to hug a teen!