As a mother of three very little ones, I wonder what it’s going to be like when they’re tweens and teens. Do they really have to go through the same “rites of passage” as I did? What can I do to stack the odds in favor of them choosing a healthier path? What do adolescents really want and need and how can they fulfill those requirements in a way that is less harmful, less painful than the risky roads of underage/binge drinking, drugs and sex that permeate youth party culture? Are there ways of relating to them, as their parent, that can help create a reality and relationship with them that is safe, nurturing, loving, encouraging to the point that they won’t feel as much need to rebel by choosing dangerous lifestyles?
It’s a hard balance to find. On one hand, I totally understand how challenging it is to let our children fully express all parts of themselves. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting our children to be “good,” to excel in school or in whatever they do, to blindly listen to us when we tell them what to do (that fits our needs or schedule at the moment)… On the other hand, I have to keep reminding myself that I want my kids to know that they are loved unconditionally, no matter what they do, or what aspects or feelings they express. …That they can disagree with me, even if it isn’t convenient, but that there are still rules in our family that need to be respected. …That there may be consequences for their choices, but I will be there to support them as they express their feelings about those consequences, and to help guide them in making different choices. …That yearning to connect through love and sexuality is a normal and healthy aspect of humanity, and that I can help them navigate their way by being available for questions and guidance at appropriate stages. (At the same time, I need to express my own beliefs that say it’s best for them to wait to have sex.) …That wanting to feel independent or wild or free are all normal urges as well, and I can help them find healthy outlets to explore those feelings. …That it is okay, even more than okay, to have and to express their own opinions, their own voices in the world, to stand up for what they believe in and say no to what they don’t — even if it is to me or someone else in authority.
This isn’t easy, or convenient. It takes, and will take me being willing to be uncomfortable, to work on myself regularly so that I can stay centered within the youthful chaos. I have to learn how to not take things personally, be so conscious of my own triggers that I can observe myself compassionately when one of the kids trips over my wires, yet not react and lash out at them in retaliation or a bid for control. Sure, it would be much easier to just “make” them behave, at least in their younger years. But at what cost? Their voice? Their self-worth? Their health?
Sometimes it feels so overwhelming, thinking about all of the things I want to impart to them as a parent, all of the lessons I hope they learn, all of the experiences I want them to have (and some that I wish they wouldn’t) in the world. I can’t, and shouldn’t, take on their lessons for them… I know I have to let them make their own way, but I also can’t shirk my role as a guide and safe boundary. Such a tricky balance.
Parents – How do you see your current role in your child(ren)’s life? What are the most important life lessons you are hoping to impart to them?
Teens and tweens – How does your relationship with your parent affect the choices you are making in your life? What do they do that helps you feel confident, safe, free to be yourself in a healthy way in the world? What do you wish they would do or say that would help you even more?