Do you struggle to understand and connect with your adolescent? Does he or she feel safe coming to you with problems or questions? When is is better to step back and let your child handle a situation? How can you “be there” without being in the way? How can you read a silent teen’s mind? These are questions most parents attempt to navigate during the teen years and into early adulthood.
A child moving through adolescence and toward independence and adulthood has many needs—they will fall and skin their knees, literally and figuratively.
Parents can often foresee a problem on the horizon long before their child has looked up, much less identified or considered the issue or how to navigate through or around the rocks. How nice might it be to tell your child how to handle the situation before he or she even has a chance to realize or assess it…when it might be too late…saving both yourself and the child this unpleasant consequence and loads of anxiety for the both of you? Sometimes we parents may even be seeking to give our child an “advantage” over peers in a competitive world. Survival of the fittest we rationalize? When parents attempt to help (too much), sometimes the best intentions backfire…in fact really backfire! So, instead of your child dealing with the problem, the “issue” he or she instead seems to focus on and go to battle with, is YOU! The battle of wills, the battle of avoidance, the battle of not taking responsibility for a problem as it arises. How did this happen when you were being such a thoughtful involved parent and with only the best of intentions?
Of course we all want our children to escape harm and disappointment whenever possible, this is a natural desire. But, when we can step back, refrain from over instruction while staying tuned in we may have the pleasure of becoming a witness to our children’s blossoming competencies. The gift of being there but allowing your children to experience the “gift of a skinned knee” is part of the growing up process. It can be gut wrenching to allow your child this time and space, and he or she may never thank you (at least not for another decade or two). It can be anxiety producing to stand-by and watch your child fall and skin his knee—not get picked at recess, not make the Honor Roll, not get included in a social gathering of BFFs, fail the test, not make make the Varsity team, not get the coveted social invitation, experience heartbreak when their first girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up. Pain, pain, pain.
Sometimes it is the parent’s attempt to relieve their own anxiety that robs the child of the opportunity to face and manage his own anxieties. Interestingly, anxiety is important to our survival—it alerts us to a possible problem and can motivate us to take actions. However, we must first slow down and identify what is attached to this anxiety before we can make a good plan to manage “it.” If you sense this may be your situation, going into counseling to work on your own issues may be the best parenting step you take to help (or allow) your child to manage his own. We are here to help you work through your own issues—some may be related to parenting and some may predate parenting. Whatever your angst, it is never to late to learn and practice new skills, parenting and otherwise. In the process you might just be giving your child the gift of learning not only from his own mistakes but from your growth and modeling.
Parenting a teenager isn’t an easy job. Things can be much more complicated when you don’t know how to help your teen through a difficult time. You want the best for your child, you just need the skills to know how to guide them. We can teach you skills so you can parent with confidence.