You’ve made it through the terrible twos, easy eights, and troublesome tweens and now you are the proud parent of one or more teens. You’re not naive. You know what teens in your community are up to: underage drinking, sexting,drug use, hook ups, and the list goes on. Of course teens are also playing sports, making music, taking Advanced Placement classes, and volunteering. They’re developing skills to last them a lifetime. I know it’s not these lovely qualities that keep us up at night and send us to our knees in prayer the first time Junior or Princess drives off in the family car. It’s what we don’t know or maybe do know and can’t control that worries us silly.
That’s why, parents of teens, your job is not over. Though you may no longer be able to control your teen, your ability to guide and influence is a responsibility you must attend to. Your job at this stage is to know yourself and your values. Also know that these are your values and they form the base on which you guide and influence your child. There is no guarantee you child will share these values and it’s not necessary for them to do so to become responsible, productive, reasonably happy adults. I leave you to do the hard work of identifying your values, which may include things like foods you eat, religion, physical activities, social activities, intellectual pursuits, chores, and discipline. A value that I strongly encourage you to continue or develop to support both you and your teen during this critical passage is creating and maintaining caring, connected relationships with your children.
When my own kids were teens, having strong relationships with them was a priority. Did that mean they told me everything? No. Did they do whatever they were supposed to without argument? No. Did they sail through the teens problem free? Of course not. There were even times when a relationship felt downright broken. Regardless of what was happening in my life or theirs, my intention was to have a strong relationship with them. I believed that whatever else might happen in our lives, strong relationships would help us get through it, whatever “it” was together. I still believe this. Parents often get caught up in trying to control their teens behavior and sacrifice relationship in the process. Not controlling your teen doesn’t mean the same as letting them run free and do whatever they want. Building a strong connection with your child is the middle way–the way that allows you to influence your teen as you gradually turn the responsibility for Junior’s Princess’s life over to him/her.
This way of parenting may be new to you. Releasing control and increasing connection may challenge your understanding of how to parent teens. I’m here to offer support and encouragement as you venture forth in new ways of raising your teen.