What a teenager has taught me
Do you remember your teenage years?
My recent few blog posts surrounded the topic of ‘Children and teens on screens’.
The reason was that my first born is becoming a teenager in the next month and I was feeling out of my depth.
For years, I had avoided thinking how to parent teenagers.
The fearful thoughts around this were based on being criticised when I was a new mother.
I felt shamed and put in my place when in the presence of others, I was told by another mother that I didn’t have a clue about parenting because I only had one child (at the time).
It made me very careful voicing my opinion on what children really need in these early days.
Often we are under so much pressure as a new parent we forget that we know everything we need to know when it comes to raising a child.
You and I were both a child and a teenager before becoming an adult and all we wanted was to be heard, seen, loved and valued for who we are.
You have your own beliefs about what is important for you in your life.
From these beliefs you parent your child and only want what you assume is best for your child.
In this often fast-paced and tiring life of looking after a child, we can easily overlook what our child's needs are and instead go with what we think is right.
We think children need a lot of material wealth to be happy and yet they seem to prove us wrong when it comes to presents and big trips that cost us 100’s and 1000’s of euros.
Once, I heard a parent say that their child didn’t remember the expensive trip to Euro-Disney but vividly described in colourful detail the racing car they built out of a cardboard box, when they were 6 years old.
It baffles parents and sometimes could make you ask in a moment of desperation:
“Why don’t you do what you are supposed to, after all that I have done for you?”
You may wonder where I am going with this?
In times where everything is so abundant and a lot of parents can buy their child whatever the child asks for, it still doesn’t seem to be enough.
So where does the answer to raising happy children lie?
What children and teenagers are sharing with me is that they just want their parent to chill out and be happy themselves.
So instead of asking: how can you raise a happy child - you could ask: how can you be happier as a parent?
This is something that I thought of during the week when I was told that I was overprotective by one of my children.
A lot of the time I am getting a dose of my own medicine as my business mentor used to say.
My children get easily annoyed when I fall into my old patterns of micro-managing them and berating both with all my advice (they never asked for) on how to live their life.
A message in my mother’s day card said it all:
“Thank you for everything you do for me.”
I asked for one thing that was meant by everything and received the answer: “For keeping me alive.”
Coincidently, I had heard this same message 2 weeks prior from a parenting psychologist whom I admire very much.
Does this sometimes happen to you too?
You see or hear guidance several times in a short space of time and it can be delivered in a different form and sign?
I started listening and whenever I am aware: I now stand back a bit.
Being a parent seems to be more effortless than the concepts in our imagination?
I wonder what 1 task, action or sentence you could leave out today and claim this 1 moment back to just be in your own magnificent presence?
You may feel so energised and calm to just be you.
Lastly, the other piece of recommendation by a teenager I was allowed to interview to help us parents be more at ease:
take it step by step.
What the 17-year-old meant by this was to only deal with the here and now.
We don’t need to find a solution for anything that may happen in the future, something we fear could happen.
Also, not go over all the times in the past where the child did or didn’t do…
That to me was such a relief.
I don’t need to worry about potential body image distortions by giving my daughter a phone right now.
This month and today, I am having a conversation with her about her expectation on phone use and mine.
Together we will come up with an agreement and I have faith in her wanting to do the right thing.
I know she can be trusted and I know she also needs to push the boundaries.
Like with sweets, bedtime and watching TV, it will be a dance back and forth and most importantly I have a knowing that also my capacity will grow.