Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I parent teens. What's your superpower?

This is an entry for me to read whenever I feel frustrated with my very important job as a parent to teens... Encouragement.

Keep on showing and telling your love and affection, in whatever way you can. Teens need to know they are loved, and they need to have strong, clear boundaries set and enforced for them. They need your love, they need back-rubs and hugs (when they let you near them). They really need you. Every cell in their bodies is saying "I WILL be my own person" and it is terrifying. It is especially terrifying to a young person who doesn't really know what they want to do as a career, for young people who don't feel smart and confident, for young people who have been traumatized at some point in their lives (most people, eh?), and for young people who struggle with one or more academic areas (since that is highly valued in our "but you have to go to college" culture). They know they have to leave home at some point (because they naturally can't stand these people!) but they are starting to realize just how much it is going to cost (money and energy and thought) to actually take care of themselves. It's relentless, adult life, but at some point, a teen just knows they Can Not Stay in the nest.

One of my son's teachers who worked with teens on the edge for years told me that a teen's job is to make you hate them enough to eventually push them out of the nest. Don't take it personally. It is his/her job, developmentally speaking, to make you hold him/her responsible for creating a Life. At this point, it is your job to require him/her to be responsible and earn his/her keep and to keep him/herself alive and safe and real. But love, your love is not earned. Your love is a fact of his life and he can't do anything about it. Your love is a fact of her life and she can't do anything about it.

Any hurt or resentment you feel toward your teen is a message from your heart that you have unhealed hurts to which you need to attend. Find the ways you as a teen were let down, confused, frustrated, terrified at the hands of parents or teachers or other adults who probably just didn't realize what you needed from them. Learn how to express everything you need to express without hurling hurtful words (or rolling your eyes or making a fist) in the direction of a human heart.

Take care of yourself.

Teens are the wonderful coming peers and leaders in our world. Teens are great examples of high energy, having fun, feeling everything. Teens are fabulous examples of just hanging out, sleeping in, enjoying food, laughing out loud, dancing crazy. Teens are good at letting their anger out instead of pushing it down to smolder for years. Teens are passionate about what they believe. Except when they are, like, whatever. Which can also be a very good place to be.

Be the adult. Be the one who believes. Be the one who respects no matter what. Be the one who holds on to hope, so that when your teen can't, they can at least know it isn't just slipping away.

Stand your ground and shout I love you!


Bethany said...

What a beautiful post. I'm going to save this one for future reference!

Anonymous said...

You say this well my friend
be in the moment
stand firm when needed
but cry with them too
I loved the teenage years, not every moment but mostly YES filling our home food music dance late night movies walking in on impromptu musicals as they swung from the couches what a jaw dropping gift ;-)
Stand firm on that loving ground, encourage dreams and be available!
Sure works for us - blessings all
what a joy to read ~ thanks
much love

Mihaela said...

Wonderful post. Now I'm looking forward to parenting teens! Still a few years to go.
Good luck and safe trip to Ethiopia!
See you soon.
Mihaela (also learning to make breads)