It is the sunlight of parental love and encouragement that enables a child to grow in competence and slowly gain mastery over his environment. (Felicity Bauer)
Struggling with your teen is not uncommon. It is actually part of the growth process as our teen grows into the person they want to be. The struggle is often due to our inability to understand that the passage of time transforms the small child who occupied our every thought into a teen who wants and needs us to step back and give them space. Your teen is slowly shifting into the adult world and our goal is to make sure that they have the tools to do so. We all want our teens to go out into the world and create their own success and accomplishments. However, there are a few things that will ease the struggle of parenting a teen and minimize the heartache of watching your child need you less.
Your job as a parent will change as your child gets older. Life is constantly moving the goalposts. While you are in the thick of child-rearing, it feels like that part of it will never end. As a parent you are your child’s teacher, mentor, cheerleader, role model and coach. When our kids are young we are teaching life skills and helping them understand life lessons. The life skills and lessons become more complex as our children age and we shift to mentoring, role modeling, and coaching. We start with how to tie their shoes, to making a sandwich, to their first heartbreak, and moving out on their own. No matter how much your child wants you to be part of their life, it is just that your role as the parent changes as your child ages. Embrace the change and the dynamic nature of the parent-teen relationship and enjoy it as it is short lived.
As a parent we are the keeper of all your child’s stuff. No matter where your children go or who they go with, you will forever be the keeper of their history, their struggles, their joy, and their dreams. No one will understand your child better than you. This is true of the teen years. you have knowledge of their past and can use that knowledge to understand your teen’s present situation, but also to pull on it to help them through a tough period and to build resilience. It is by using past experiences that our teens grow into adults, but as a parent you will hold all of that information for the time when you teen or adult child may need that information.
Don’t try to change your teen. Your teen is who they are, and as a parent we need to accept that and instead help our teen become the best version of themselves. Accept your teen for who they are and understand that your teen has their own dreams and aspirations, and as a parent we need to encourage them to achieve their greatest potential. Parenting a teen is much easier if we work with our teen and help to develop a relationship that encourages independence and the ability for your teen to seek you out for consultation without opinions and the “I told you so”, or “when I was your age”. After all, our teen, and the time they are living in, is unique to them, and the experience they are having is specific to who they are and are becoming.