If you are reading this, most likely you are at the stage in life where your child is becoming, GULP, a young adult. The word TEENAGER and the idea of little Johnny or Suzie joining that elite group may be causing you to break out in a cold sweat and turn your hair completely grey. The parents of teens sometimes experience more headache and heartache than the teens themselves.
Having a teenager does not mean your life is destined for constant battles and upheaval. Believe it or not your child’s main purpose is not to make your life miserable, or their own life miserable for that matter. Nope, your teen and every other teenager’s goal is to become independent and successful.
As parents of teens, we all acquire a few grey hairs along the way … but, we all through these years eventually. Even more importantly, so do our children.
Put a Fence Around Your Worry
Worry can be good, but only when we concentrate our worries on our own actions. That is because can actually control those actions. The problem is that most of our worries as parents are not based on our actions. Our worries are based on the actions of our children or (in a lot of cases) their lack of actions. We worry about how they will react if put in a certain situation, whether or not they will go to college, get a job, have a family and become contributing members of our society.
Even if we think we are doing a good job masking it; our worry is visible to our kids. AS parents of teens we worry constantly. Moody emotional teens tend to interpret our worry in a completely different way. They may feel that we see them as incapable of being successful. This certainly is not the message we want to be sending our kids!
If we want to get through these teen years and beyond, we need to get a hold of our worries. Just like dogs need fences in order to stay where we want them to stay, our worries need fences, too. If we don’t put a fence around our worries, then we can lose control of them, and perhaps lose control of our kids too.
Don’t Take It Personally
I know it is hard not to take it personally when you are knee deep in attitude, eye rolling, foot stomping and sometimes even more dangerous-type behaviors. But believe it or not, this is not about you and it’s not about hormones either. There is a lot going on inside that changing hairy and sometimes stinky body of theirs.
Basically, the brain develops at different speeds. For example, the Prefrontal Cortex (known as PFC) does not fully develop until around the age of 25. But other parts of the brain like the AMG appear to already be fully mature by the time puberty happens. Scientist now say that this difference in brain maturity explains a lot of teen behaviors.
The PFC is what helps with regulating mood, attention, impulse control and the ability to think abstractly- which includes both planning ahead and the ability to see the consequences of one’s behavior.
The AMG, on the other hand, is thought to play a role in emotion, aggression, and instinctual, almost reflexive responses. So now you can understand why your teen may seem to be angry and impulsive all the time. It’s simply because that part of their brain is more dominant at this stage.
So the next time your teenager screams, “I hate you!” and storms upstairs to her room; remember that it’s their AMG and PFC speaking!
Take A Step Back
It’s not easy to step back and watch our teens try and do something on their own when we know there is a better, easier, correct way of doing things. After all, isn’t that our job parents of teens? Shouldn’t we help them do and be the best they can be? But the more we try and help them, the more resentful they become.
As our kids transition from teens to adults, our parenting role needs to transition too. No longer is our job to jump in and save them, to “fix” their problems and make things all better. Our new job is to step back and act as a consultant service. We need to offer advice, information and guidance, not necessarily help! We are there to help them navigate through challenges, mistakes or obstacles in a way that promotes learning and future self-sufficiency.
That means sometimes they are going to fail, fall down, make mistakes.
Rather than smoothing things over, we can spend our time teaching our teens how to be responsible for their own actions, how to advocate for themselves (and others), and how to fill their tool boxes with the right tools that will allow them to mitigate their way through their own mine fields in life.
Redefine What Success Is
For the most part, we all want the same things for our kids. We want them to grow up healthy, happy, resilient and successful. But perhaps it is time we took the pressure off our teens (and ourselves) and redefined what being successful looks like.
Getting good grades, accepted into an IVY league school, landing a job that allows you to afford all the luxuries in life is nice; but we need to make sure our teens understand that those are not the things in life that make one successful. This is a much easier concept to say then do for THINGS are what most our teens aspire to have and be. It’s not their fault; it is the picture that we as a society paint for them as to what success looks like.
If you want to create a better world, one where every person is respected and treated with dignity, then we need to paint a new picture of what success is. That picture begins by teaching our teens that success does not look the same for every person. We need to help our kids understand that success is less about having and doing and more about being. We need to reinforce that true success is the satisfaction one feels at the end of the day knowing that they made a difference, It’s about knowing that you’ve brought value to others, that they learned from their mistakes, made better choices and believed in themselves.
Raising kids is hard. Raising young adults who will leave positive lasting footprints on this earth is even harder. But if you are still reading this, I have no doubt you are up to the challenge. Parents raising teens are true heroes, but you may still need to buy that hair dye! 😉