Surviving Your Parent / Teen Relationship

Being in a parent-teen relationship is one of the most interesting, dynamic, conflicted, worrisome, frustrating, intense and rewarding experiences we get the joy of having in our lifetime.

If you are a parent of a teen, you get the distinct pleasure of worrying about every aspect of your teen’s life from their dental health through to their sexual health, from their social well-being to their academic well being. Is she happy? Is he getting enough sleep? Has she been using drugs? Is he depressed? Is she sexually active? Do we need to, GulP, talk some more? Has she been skipping classes? Does he ever do his homework? Will he ever make it into any post secondary institution? Who are those strange people calling the house? Am I a lousy role model? Did I do something or fail to do something that I’m paying for now? And all you parents of teens, in unison, “is s/he addicted to this **#! computer chat line and idiotic games!?”.

Then there are the calls from school, the angry silences or angry explosions when you innocently ask “how was your day”? depending on the mood of the moment. It’s enough to make any parent want to fast forward a decade or so to a time when smooth waters prevail, all is calm, all are bright. But, alas, personal growth doesn’t happen this way, and this is a time of monumental opportunities for growth, for all parties involved.

Now, if parents think they have it rough, life through the eyes of your resident teenager isn’t any easier. Teens have big time academic stresses, demands, and many social and family pressures that can cause agonizing, angst-filled nights. The most common way teens deal with the pressures and demands of school and family are to not. Teens don’t necessarily have the widest array of coping strategies , but one strategy that many teens have mastered is procrastination. Not dealing with things. Waiting until it becomes a big issue before taking action. Later. Much. Although this approach generally causes more problems down the line, the brief respite allows for more computer, shopping or hang out time. But then the headaches grow. And the stress grows, and the parents start nagging, and teen life really seems like it sucks the proverbial egg. And you don’t care any more. Well really you do, but not at this moment. You’re going out-somewhere-any where- away from the controlling person who calls itself a parent.

As a teen you don’t have the freedom you NEED, someone’s always hovering, you don’t have privacy, and you seldom get to do what you really WANT. Then, there’s the whole issue of “the future” always looming, like a shadow from the Dark Side. It is paralyzing scary. Don’t think about it…turn on the computer. Life on both sides can be challenging and frustrating. Here are ten tips for both parents and teens to make these years not only survivable, but enjoyable.

Tips for parents:

  • Tell your teenager everyday that you love them.
  • Don’t engage in power struggles – nobody ever wins.
  • Remember that trust is not only a precious resource, it’s also renewable (discover the source).
  • Take the time to really understand what is going on in your teen’s life (Listen, Listen, Listen).
  • Keep your eyes on the prize. Visualize the type or relationship you want to have when your teen is a young adult.
  • Allow your teen to make mistakes (as long as it doesn’t involve your car).
  • Trust that you have given your teen a good foundation – if you feel it’s a bit shaky, get some help and work on things (it’s never too late).
  • Examine your parenting style: anything you’d like to change? What are you proud of?
  • Focus on the positive – compliment your teen daily.
  • Think back to your own teen years – look how great you turned out!

Tips for teens:

  • You’ll feel more in control if you get control over your personal space – make your room a relaxing environment.
  • If you want more freedom, demonstrate that you are ready for it (rights = responsibility).
  • Your parent’s trust is a valuable gift – handle with care.
  • If you lose the trust, ask how you can regain it – ( it’s worth it).
  • Understand that your parents have stressors too – ask about them.
  • Mistakes are great learning opportunities – just admit ’em and fix ’em.
  • If you feel really down about things, tell your parents – ask for help.
  • Communicate with your parents (talk, talk, talk).
  • Negotiate with your parents to set reasonable boundaries that work for everyone (this process may take some time).
  • Tell your parents you love them – (make their day).

The parent/teen relationship is a time of transition and change. As our teens grow and change, we are required to change alongside of them. This is certainly fertile ground not only for change, but also for growth. Providing positive role models for our teens requires us to stretch out to our full potential. It’s an exciting journey, enjoy the ride.

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The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.