Our culture tells us to fear the time between childhood and adolescence and adolescence and adulthood. I will admit that it can be frightening to try to navigate the world our teens are growing up in right now, but if it is scary for adults, imagine how scary it must be for youth! Parents have an important role to play in this joy-filled transition. I say "joy"-filled because joy doesn't rely on the situation at hand like "happy" does. There may be difficult moments during adolescence, but there can also be profound joy in watching your teenager become a responsible, proud, and productive adult.
Parenting teenagers is very different than parenting young children. The brain development of adolescents, their physical changes, and their exposure to new freedoms and ideas all create a new way of seeing themselves and the world. Their maturity is influenced by experience and developmental barriers. That makes it difficult to devise a one-size-works-for-all model of parenting, so I encourage parents to come alongside their teens, and to look in the same direction, instead of walking in front of them to clear possible challenges out of the way, or behind them so as to give a push in the “right” direction.
Walking alongside is a posture of partnership. It conveys "We are in this together" to a young person. Trust that, as an adolescent navigates their future, they will make good choices, and that they will also make choices that you would not make. They will be paralyzed at times and not know what to do. If you are alongside them, you will be available to them in any of these circumstances.
I realize that sometimes things are so confusing (for teens and for parents) that the best thing to do is to pause, take a deep breath, and think through any unintended consequences. Our responses can be received and processed in ways we have often not considered and this can have implications for the future and for our relationship. In the next few months, I will be sharing a number of “parenting pauses” with you. I hope that you are encouraged by the things that I have learned as the mother of three children (all grown up now) and from the countless families with whom I have worked.
Leave comments and questions if you wish!
Be blessed and be a blessing. ~Dawn