The Privilege of Parenting a Teenager
You did read that right – it does say privilege!
Having worked with, and parented a number of teens I am well versed in the topics of floordrobes, game rage, waking the dead and many of the typical challenges of the teenage years.
Our teens have brought us a whole array of stories that I’m convinced most people believe we’ve invented. They’ve also set the bar pretty low for any guests. Basic house rules are don’t pee out of the window or eat my stash of chocolate. Pretty much anything else is up for negotiation!
As well as an array of bizarre stories and a whole heap of stress and heartache the teenager’s years have also given us something else. Something that it’s easy to lose sight of when you’re in the throes of debating who “everyone else” is, clarifying that a lack of wifi doesn’t mean the world has ended and why your house is NOT a hotel (whilst also berating yourself for starting to sound like your own parents)!!
So what are these “privileges”?
These years are a time when our children are taking a pretty unique journey. They’re testing the waters of what adulthood might be like, forming significant relationships, developing their own views and opinions and trying out all sorts of things that sometimes you really don’t want to know about. This crazy adventure is a journey that you get to share with them as a parent in a way no one else does and it truly is a privilege as much as it is a challenge. We get to be part of that journey of firsts – to be their safe place when it goes wrong.
To be the SOS at crazy o clock might not be fun, but to have the honour of being someone’s safe place, to mentor them through the ups and downs, to watch their baby steps into the adult world and provide love and security when the rest of the world can feel so uncertain is truly a gift.
The vomiting, slobbering, snoring drunken teen on the bathroom floor might not be an instagrammable happy family moment, but the fact they’ve come home and that rite of passage is with you IS significant.
As is the meeting the girlfriend/boyfriends/new friends who may actually be part of their life for years to come. Adult children may provide less drama and rows, but there is often less opportunity to know their significant others’.
The hours you spend listening to the endless (and not all that exciting) stories of who said what to whom and who’s doing what with who are the moments when your teen gets to work out their opinions or to test out what your response might be to their choices – you’re their sounding board and their guide to how things might be. You have the opportunity to provoke thought, to question and enable your child to really explore the world with wisdom and insight.
Their pushing away from us can be oh so painful, but those glimpses of the adult they are going to become are oh so sweet. When we see their compassion for their friends or them standing up for what they believe is right we have an insight into the adult they are becoming and we get to be a part of that.
To journey with another person through their significant milestones, to create safe space and to share that transition from child to adult is more of a mountain climb than a lakeside stroll. We need to make sure we’re equipped for the journey, that we’ve got encouragement and supplies to keep us going on the tough bits, but what a privilege to be able to take such a journey.
Julie helps parents find reassurance and get unstuck. She writes from her experiences as a foster parent, parent and teacher. She became a coach because she believes that ALL parents benefit from space to offload and reflect. With quality thinking space she regularly sees parents find the best way forward to fit their family and enjoy family life far more as a result.