Is it always helpful to help our teenagers? As parents, we are constantly at the ready to protect, advise, remind and suggest alternatives…all in the spirit of keeping them safe and making their lives easier. Our intentions are good! But the response from our teens is sometimes exasperation or frustration when we try to help. They may need it (in our eyes), but they don’t want it. They are learning how to do things on their own, and they may sense that we are robbing them of that.
A hard lesson for parents….
When we anticipate things that might go wrong for our teens and implement solutions behind the scenes, are we really helping them? Are we just doing it for them? And is it more about satisfying our own need for control and to feel like everything is okay? Maybe you, too, feel anxiety and discomfort when your kids make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. We know in our hearts it’s the right thing to let them learn from their own mistakes, but it sure can be painful to watch.
How can we do better?
This means letting teens deal with the logical consequences of their actions without intervening. (Easier said than done!) The ability to detach from the outcome is a powerful one. It gives us parents freedom! We can allow our children to learn from their experiences and accept the consequences of their actions. It also allows our teenagers to identify solutions to their own problems, which is a skill they will need far beyond the teenage years. This kind of independence shows our teenagers that they have their own power and that it feels good to make good choices.
Detachment doesn’t always mean leaving your teenager to his/her own devices.
Sometimes parental intervention is absolutely necessary. However, before you step in, ask yourself if your help is more helpful for them or for you. Is your help allowing them to get out of doing something hard that would benefit them in the long run? Sometimes we just want to save the day, and it’s much more difficult to just do nothing…but sometimes doing nothing is best.
Encourage your child to explore his/her options
Encourage and support your teenager’s exploration and experimentation in the spirit of finding out what they like and what they’re good at. You can certainly share your interests with them, but you may find that they aren’t that interested. That’s okay! Allow them to do their own thing.
Support your teenagers in their choices
We all have dreams for what we want our children to be. Maybe you dreamed of your son as a star athlete or your daughter as a scientist…if those things don’t happen the way you had hoped, mourn for what might have been, but then move on to love and adore the child in front of you who has other skills and talents to be celebrated. Don’t try to push your child into an area where he/she doesn’t belong, just because that was your dream. Instead, embrace what you find your child to be passionate about and support them all the way! Your teenager wants to please you more than anything! Find a way to be their biggest supporter.
Don’t worry about how it will look on their college application.
There are many different avenues to take after High School. Many different colleges that look for a variety of skills and backgrounds. Shift the focus to what makes your teenager truly excited about life. Finding a passion, a talent, or skill, something that truly motivates them will be an area they will want to pursue for the future. This matters so much more than what looks good on a college application. Supporting your teenager’s interests and helping him or her find the things that bring them joy are ways of showing love to your child as they navigate this tricky time between youth and adulthood. Accept your teen for who they are and encourage their true gifts. Let go of your dreams of who they should be and watch them become who they really are!