Being a parent is hard.
It can feel harder today being a parent than with previous generations. We now have 24 hours a day news cycles, we’re bombarded by images of perfection and surrounded by social media where every waking move is recorded for likes and approval. School is no longer the local one round the corner; we look at results, league tables and achievements. There is pressure for our children to achieve academically (slowly vocational qualifications and experiences are making a come back). There is pressure every which way we look - if we feel like this as an adult, how must our children feel?
Gone are the days when we could shut the door on the world and switch off in the safety of our own homes. We just want to protect our children, no matter how old they are - but is this right?
Being a parent is hard; being a parent of teenagers, that certainly isn’t easy.
When they were little we knew exactly where they were, knew what they were eating, helped them to explore the world safely, knew who their friends were and guided them through. As they started to grow we encouraged them to explore their emotions and home. We helped them to start to think for themselves and they in return pushed the boundaries we set. Through exploring they began to realise what was okay and not okay.
As they set off for school there was a hope that in their very early years we had done enough and given them solid foundations of love, security and trust that they were secure enough to go out into the world of education.
During the early primary years our children kept revisiting the early lessons and learned what worked and didn’t work for them as individuals and in which environment. They also learned new skills; what is socially acceptable behaviour, where they fit in the world of others outside of the family whilst learning about the world and themselves and the differences there are.
Our children then move into the second part of primary education. Here the building blocks for learning, growing and developing continue. They learn about how to identify with their own sex, develop responsibility for themselves and that of others, continue to learn about rules and structures and the relevance of these and develop skills to help them learn from their mistakes and also decide to be good enough, whilst revisiting the early developmental goals.
Our children are now moving into adolescence. This is accompanied with a move to secondary education, often leaving the safety and security of a smaller environment which might have focused on nurture as well as education. Add into the mix hormones and we are now living with a teenager.
Living with a teenager
During this stage our teenagers revisit the developmental tasks outlined above, but from the new position of working towards independence whilst safe in the knowledge that we have their back. Sexuality is explored and they learn who they are, which is ok and indeed healthy. They move towards becoming a separate, independent person with their own identity and values. Someone who is responsible for their own needs, feelings and behaviours, but is able to ask for support when needed.
So what can we as parents do?
Our role is to empower our children to grow and develop into young independent adults who are competent and confident to go out into the world and live their best life.
We don’t have to be perfect as parents, to be fair, we don’t have to be perfect human beings, we just need to be good enough. We will make mistakes, but we need to own these and admit that we got it wrong - after all our children learn so much from what they see and hear.
We need to let our developing young adults know we trust them to make the right choices, and even if they don’t, we will be there for them, to support and guide them, without judgement. None of us want or like to hear the words “I told you so”, so why would our teenagers? We need to remember our own teenage journeys (sometimes that is what terrifies us) but we also learned from our mistakes, we grew and developed into the people we are today.
The teenage journey feels so much more difficult today than that of previous generations. Mental health issues for young people is at an all time high. However this generation are more open to exploring and expressing themselves, this is a good thing. It can be difficult to address issues ‘which weren’t around in my day’. However, they probably were but no one talked about them. Depression, self harm, sexuality and gender weren’t openly talked about. They existed but were hidden due to stigma and shame. We should be celebrating that our children are confident enough to discuss these topics openly. They may not discuss them with us, their parents, due to fear, embarrassment, feeling that they’ve let us down or that we will judge them. They do want to talk with you, but without these caveats.
What else can I do?
Perhaps start a conversation, ask them how they feel about things, don’t put forward your opinions, just listen and hear what they are saying. We all know and relish what it’s like to feel heard and listened too, often we don’t want advice or be told we’re wrong or what we’re doing is just a phase; we want to be acknowledged for who and what we are. Our teenagers want this too.
Note to self...
Nobody said this was going to be easy. Take time to celebrate your successes and time to reflect on how you could have done things differently. This is a journey for each and every one of us, no one has all the answers, but hopefully this will empower you to feel you’re good enough.
If you feel that you or your teenager could benefit from talking with someone, why not get in touch. Click on the button below.
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I am a counsellor who wants to empower individuals to be the best version of themselves.