By: Jacki Wood
So I have a “friend” …
Her oldest child recently turned 18 and is getting ready to graduate high school in less than two months. And she’s starting to freak out feeling like she hasn’t prepared him enough yet for adulthood.
Okay, yes, it’s me, not some friend.
Somewhere around January 3rd, it hit me that my oldest is graduating soon and I’ve been frantically trying to teach him all the things that I think I should have by now.
I’m no expert but I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’ve done right over the last 18 years and where we could’ve done better. Parenting teenagers has proven especially hard, like everyone said it would.
Sue Shellenbarger, writing for the Wall Street Journal in 2016, said the teen years can be “mystifying” for parents “when sensible children turn scatter-brained or start having wild mood swings.”
Not exactly earth-shattering news. But she said new research offers some explanations and scientists are changing their views on the role parents should play.
“Once seen as a time for parents to step back, adolescence is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to stay tuned in and emotionally connected.
“As adolescents navigate the stormiest years in their development, they need coaching, support, good examples, and most of all, understanding.”
Being understanding can be tricky, especially as you watch them make mistakes. It’s so easy to want to just correct them.
I recently read about Bert Fulks who works with a youth addiction recovery group. He asked how many found themselves in situations where they were uncomfortable but stuck around because they felt like they didn’t have a way out. They all raised their hands.
He came up with the X-plan for his family, a simple but powerful tool for his kids to use at any time. It gives them a way out of a situation by simply texting the letter X to a family member who then calls the teen and arranges to pick them up with no questions asked.
“This is one of the most loving things we’ve ever given (our son),” he said. “It offers him a sense of security and confidence in a world that tends to beat our young people into submission.”
Adolescence is such a critical time, when we still want to protect them, but also need to help them continue learning how to become independent.
In “Helping without Hovering,” Dr. Mark Ogletree, LPC, offers these tips:
1. Look for opportunities to allow your children to do things for themselves, even if it means more work for you.
2. Teach your children to work.
3. Teach your children that choices have consequences.
4. Allow your children to have heartaches and setbacks.
5. Stand up and be courageous.
Courageous parenting. This, too, might be difficult at times. We might be afraid of offending them or having them be upset with us.
My husband and I talk with our kids. A lot. And we keep it real. They sometimes point out what other parents allow that we don’t. And that can take courage to remain committed to what we feel is best for them, although we are willing to discuss why they might disagree.
They might take offense at what we’re saying or trying to teach, but we talk through it, and hopefully, come to an understanding, even if we might not agree. And I think that’s okay.
Some of our kids’ friends have recently called us overprotective. And I’m okay with that, too, although I just call it parenting.
I’m sure it’s partially because I watch too many cop shows that have tragic stories about teens. But when they leave the house, I want to know who they’re with, where they’re going and what they’re doing. While I want to foster independence, I also want to make sure I’m doing all I can to still protect them.
We could talk for days about parenting teenagers and we’d probably disagree on different aspects.
But I guess the most important thing for me, at least right now when the countdown is on to graduation, is to simply spend time with him and create just a few more memories together.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner (and) by just having fun. In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e.”
So show up. Be there. Love them. Have fun. Listen. And be understanding.
Barbara Bush, wife of President George HW Bush, said, “Whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change…Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.”