Monday, October 8, 2012

Lettin Go

Letting go.... It’s harder than you think!

Teenagers, how do they become responsible adults and how do you force them into it? Well, you don’t. Yet, they do or at least they can with your help. Become “responsible adults” that is….

It’s a tricky time and a stressful time for both parent and teenager. It is also a time many parents avoid. Parents often hold on tight from age 12 through 17 and then, poof; the magic adult age of 18. You have no more control and if you have not begun the transition into adulthood earlier, this period can be a difficult time for all.

Today is the age where 50’s are now the new 30’s, and at 24 many are going through delayed adolescents. Does that mean at 18 our children are really 10? No, it doesn’t work that way but are we turning out 18 year olds who are not prepared to face the demands of the ADULT world?

The answer is YES.

The key word is transition. Remember 18 is still a teen, yet in all legal respects that teenage cushion is gone. It can be a frightening time for parents and a confusing time for teens.

So how does one navigate these waters?

No, this navigation is not easy; simple yes but easy, no! It is very difficult and it takes about two years to successfully manage all the turns, bumps and grinds.

Letting go for parents can be as difficult as getting away is for teens.

The Key to the situation is this time needs to be a process of “letting go”, not a dump and the process can not begin at age 18. Letting go is also a process of building block’s, which are necessary to help your teen build accountability and test out responsibility.

True, there is no one way to be successful at this process but there are some steps one can take to make the transition easier and you feel more comfortable in the journey.

Your first concept to consider is as your teen gets older, you need to allow them greater freedom. That can mean letting them stay out later to having more autonomy with their friends or letting them decide what classes they are going to take in school. This "freedom" can take on many and varied faces. How much freedom is up to you.  It is up to your own values but remember,with age comes the responsibility of managing their time as well as their behavior. It has to start small and grow gradually.

Success will be reflected in their choices as well as your level of trust.

Giving this freedom, in small increments, will help your teen manage that time and you to be able to assess, trust and adjust to how they accomplish it. With Freedom comes accountability, responsibility and trust. It is a time to learn, to test independence and a time to grow.

Now, we all know “teens” are not going to be perfect; they will break rules and make less than optimal decisions. Even so, the teen years should be guided with a punish less than more rule and when you do discipline, make sure that the punishments are natural consequences to their decisions and behavior, not necessarily to your rules.

If you ground, make sure and avoid “grounding” your teen for more than a few days. It just doesn’t work any longer and it makes you a warden; not a parent. It also impacts your time and grounds YOU. Remember this time is a learning curve and they need the experience and trust to make Responsible Decisions; not just blindly obey or break rules. Use grounding to help your teen think, redirect and know that there are boundaries and consequences that do guide their life.

So what does all this mean? It means it is important to find a balance between encouraging healthy rebellion and setting unreasonable limits…..

If you want your teen to talk with you, don’t pry… that does not mean you should not be involved in their life but remember they have a personal life too. No, this does not mean that you stay out of their life or their business. Remember it is a personal life not a private life.

The key word is respect…. Not rights…. Children have privileges and parents have responsibilities. Everyone needs RESPECT and everyone should give it. It is important not to confuse them, privileges and responsibilities I mean, not Children and Teens... As for respect? It goes across the board.

Give unsolicited advice sparingly. 

By this time your teen should already know your rules, your values and your fears. I know this is very difficult not to do. Sometimes advice and discipline are all we know. Remember, this is a time to model and ask questions. Not the time to tell them all that they are doing wrong and how you would or they should rectify the situation.

Time with your teen will be at a premium and spending time with your teen means doing things that they enjoy doing with you and times for discussions about meaningful and non-meaningful things. It is not about you dragging them to your sisters because you want “family” time and it’s the “right” thing to do. Find out how to be a part of their life as well as how they can still fit into yours. Yes, this means finding time to “be” with them not “lecture” them.

Teens are going to want independence, so encourage their efforts to get a part-time job, to be involved in school sponsored activities, to spend the night with friends. You are going to have to gradually allow them more freedom to make appropriate and inappropriate decisions. This gives them an opportunity to be both responsible and accountable… One way is to allow them more freedom with things you value. Building this trust also builds confidence in and within them.

Your teen is going to have to make major decisions that affect their future way before the magic age of 18. The age where they are still a teen yet have all the consequences of being an adult. It is important to allow them the freedom to make some of their decisions early while you can still monitor their behaviors and choices. It not only shows your interest but it shows your trust.

These years are one of both independence and dependence. You are going to see strong mood swings between these but your task is to give your teen more freedom and shield them less from the consequences of their own decisions… Not to make it safe, non- threatening and risk free. You are going to have to try and see your teen as someone moving towards adulthood rather than stuck in perpetual delayed adolescence.

If started early, your teen can be prepared to begin the age of 18 as an adult. If done correctly, this young adult will then see you as a resource when decisions become tough and use you to help them make responsible decisions when needed and they will be accountable for there behavior and choices. If not, you will continue to rescue them from harms way and reinforce their inability to contend with a hostile adult world; nurturing, in them, a sense of “rights and entitlements”.

As always… It is your choice…..Not all choices are easy and “letting go” is one of the hardest choices you will face in being a parent.

Until next time…. The only thing I ask is YOUR BEST!

No comments: