When children become teenagers, parents are often challenged. This is not because the teenager is challenging the parent or necessarily making life difficult.
Parents are challenged because sooner or later they have to give up control over their child. An important part of being a good parent during the childhood years has been to exert ‘control’. That’s what the ‘ terrible twos’ are about.
The child begins wanting to do lots of things, and the good parent must teach the child to do what the parent says. Many parents fantasize that since they have raised ‘good’ children, those children will continue to do what they say when they become adolescents.
To an extent, it is important that the parent continue to set boundaries through the teen years, but it is also necessary to begin giving up some control. It’s one thing to set a curfew, or make rules around substance use, but it’s a different matter to control friendships, hairstyles or even the child’s choice of music.
So how does a parent begin giving up control in a healthy way? To do this, the first step is to acknowledge that despite what we might want, our children are not little Mom or Dad clones, nor should we attempt to shape them into those.
They are growing into people as different from us as we are from our parents. It is important to encourage them to express their individuality. Rather than mocking clothing choices or hairstyles for example, support them in experimenting with different looks.
I would much rather see a child use clothing to express themselves rather than one who has been terrified into conformity, afraid to look ‘different.’
Do not judge their friends on how they look either. Get to know the person behind the appearance, before deciding how much time you want your child spending with them.
During these years, the challenge for parents is to learn to expand perceptions, be open-minded, develop flexibility, withhold judgments, and to practice unconditional loving. A sense of humor is a huge asset. When parents can develop these qualities, the teen years can be as enjoyable and rewarding as any.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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