Do you think that surviving your child(ren)’s teen years seems never-ending and a great stress? Imagine what they’re going through. (See: 10 Reasons Why Teens Are So Angry) It would best serve you, your teen and the family, if you all could somehow help each other get through it…by going through some of it together.
Why you may be qualified to help your teen:
First of all, you were a teen once. But that doesn’t mean you remember what it’s like, so you’ll have to think about it. Just visit your child’s middle or high school if you need to and get your refresher by intentionally listening to some of the conversations going on in the hallways.
Second, you’re the parent. You have two choices: Try to help them, or to let them deal with everything on their own and see what happens. Now, true enough, we’re not all child psychologists and they never handed out the parenting manual at the hospital with all the “right” things to do in it for every situation. In fact, there are a lot of varying opinions on what the right thing to do is. So you can read some books or find other ways to get input for your situation(s), and you probably will find a lot of help.
It seems that many times parents feel powerless, or they want to completely dominate the lives of the teenager, but most are somewhere in between. Even when you’re all into self-development yourself and feel like you have a lot to offer, your child may reject all of it – right now at least – because “YOU, DO NOT Understand!” And guess what, we really don’t. Because they are going through countless dramas each day.
Now the “coach approach,” my offering in this case, is that the best way to help someone is to help them become more aware of their thoughts and actions (the only 2 things any of us have control over), help them become more critical in their thoughts pertaining to self and the interactions with the world around them, help them to consider accepting what is and isn’t within their control, and finally, how to blossom within what is. You can offer something similar to your teen.
Having said that, it also has to be said that I work with people who want my help. The challenge with teens, is that they usually want ANYONE’s help besides yours. They now know you are imperfect and they’re going through a phase of a type of acceptance of that. But right now it’s typically tipping more to the far end on the spectrum toward you don’t really know anything. They don’t trust you that much; you’re not saying what their friends are saying. So they might think you’re against them, and ”what they’re about,” since you don’t sign-off on some of the “crazy” teenage thought-systems that they may be falling into.
This is the biggest challenge…they don’t want your help, or at least the kind you’re offering. Just trying to help can cause more conflict and drama. Since you’re the parent, you’ll want to keep your integrity in continuing to be the parent, just going forward with maybe a little more understanding, compassion and openness. And remember that it’s OK to be human in front of your kids, because none of us have ever really been that good at hiding that fact in the first place (smile). And why would you want to at this stage of the game anyway?
Here are some suggestions to help your teen deal with life:
Just a basic: Be clear about roles in the house – it provides structure and disciplines that will help them later in life, and everyone now. Parents are here to love and provide for their children to the best of their ability. And all kids live under the parent’s choice of lifestyle. I like what Will Smith said once: “That’s not your room. It’s my room, and I’m letting you use it.” This implies that the teenager has certain habits of cleanliness, maintenance (chores) and respects that must be observed in the house. Provide appropriate consequences to their actions of compliance. When they are old enough and able to supply their own means, they will have their own house or apartment that they get to choose the lifestyle of. This is not an arguable issue or one that they have to add to the uncertainty in their lives – they already know.
Provide a “safe” outlet for them to begin to trust expressing what’s on their mind, by not over-reacting and allowing them to get it out without judgment. (Don’t expect the same in return.)
When you are “blessed” with some real thoughts or accounts of situations they’re in, or have been in, help them by asking them the good questions. This will allow them to process things on their own and make better decisions for themselves when they have to think about the answers. You have to kind of think in reverse: What seems sensible and rational here (to you) and then what question can you ask that might help direct them into seeing and considering this perspective? Is this manipulation? Hmmm, not really because you never know where they will go with it or what truth from their minds will be revealed – maybe something you hadn’t considered. This keeps things open to discussion, more questions, and more thought.
Acknowledge that you’re child is growing up, but still not grown. Open up dialog with them with the intention of hearing what they have to say and to find out what their concerns are. Don’t expect to be his or her #1 confidant. The goal is to be willing to allow enough expression, without your reaction or immediate command, so that they are willing to allow you to get involved in their thinking process. When this happens, you can help them process by asking the good questions and offering ideas of the possible consequences to certain choices they may make. After some practice of this, you can just start to ask them of the consequences that they can foresee in a situation, and then maybe they’ll be even more open to hearing other possibilities from you.
Trust them to occasionally make their own mistakes. How did you learn all of your lessons in life so far, because someone told you? Probably not, and neither will they. Of course it helps in the process with some good input along the way when you’ve had these “thinker” conversations with them. They will be more aware, more conscious of what’s going on around them and to others, and begin to think differently and make better choices for themselves in general.
Teach them about the value of their own intuition. This is the truth that lies within them that is always telling them what is right and wrong for themselves. It’s that feeling in their gut/heart area that can really guide them best. Add in their critical thought, and that will help them out of situations they don’t really want to be in.
Accept that we cannot live our children’s lives. They are their own persons with their own paths. So we can only help them to live their own. We are their most influential teachers, the good and the bad, leading up to their adulthood. Whether we are active participants in their overall development is up to us – we can actually choose to leave it up to others. It’s a tough gig being a parent! If you’re anything like me, I had no idea how challenging it would be – but I wouldn’t trade it.
If we change the way we deal with our kids to promote this alliance for the development of their critical thought process and intuition reliance, they will actually seek us out more often for conversations because they know we will lead them toward a higher way of thinking that results in better coping, more confidence and it usually feels better in the end.
Parents: There is no perfect parent, so don’t expect yourself to be one. But there are ways we can be there to help our children beyond food, clothes and shelter. Allow yourself to make your own mistakes and then get back up on that horse! You’re the Unsung Hero!