It is a strange place to find yourself; as a parent of a teenager. To discover suddenly that what was acceptable communication yesterday is not today. I want to ask "who flipped the switch?"
It is no surprise and I have been waiting for it, as it is no secret that all teens go through this time when parents can do or say nothing right ...but still when it happened it caught me off guard. I am right in the middle of it, with one 15 year-old and one that is 18 years old. Yet I am surprised how the rules of engagement can change from day to day or hour to hour. So, not only does the switch flip, but it feels like it is flipping up and down constantly and to navigate what position we are in at any given time is almost impossible.
I do not intend this blog to become an opportunity to complain about teenagers, especially my own, as I happen to feel I have two exceptionally wonderful teens. As biased as that is, I stand by it. This is more about what I am learning about how to navigate this interesting season.
It is hard to be in a place where your opinion is not seen to be valued. It challenges me to think about where I get my value?
I am learning to continually see myself in the image of God, and as His child, as well as continually handing my children over to Him, knowing that He hasn't finished with any of us yet. It reminds me that this season and these challenges are not about me, but about my teens learning and growing and needing to question, to widen their circle and seek out what they believe. AND I am learning that when I do get emotional about them not valuing my opinion, often it simply shuts down the potential lines of future communication.
It is hard to be in a place where the conversation seems completely irrational to me and when I try to bring some rationality to the situation, it sends the conversation to an ugly place. It challenges me make to think about what is the right response as a parent in this space?
I am learning that one thing they need right now is for me to listen, listen and listen. It reminds me that they need me to empathise no matter how ridiculous it sounds as it is simply a part of the process and often the irrational verbalisation is important for them to hear out loud for themselves more than anything else. AND I have learned to apologise A LOT, for not listening and speaking too much.
It is hard to be in a place where I am asked for my opinion, but when it is not what they want to hear, then I become the enemy. It challenges me to consider that HOW I respond can make all the difference.
I am learning not to take this personally and to see that sometimes being the punching bag is because they feel safe to vent with me. I am learning that a response like "that is really tough", "I am sorry to hear that " or "I am confident that you will make the right choice", or "have you thought about talking to ... (a mentor/coach/trusted older person) about this ?" is often better than them hearing my opinion. AND I have learned that this is a really important time for others’ voices in my teens’ lives.
It has reminded me of the importance of coaches and mentors for both myself and the kids. I am thankful for the people in my life who have walked this road before, who listen to me and help me see the funny side of some of the conversations, because sometimes all I can do is to laugh it off and let it go. I am thankful for a wonderful husband and life partner, which means I am not alone and that we get to walk this season together. We often find that when one is weak the other is strong and together we get there eventually. I am thankful for the men and woman in my teens’ lives who they can go to and hear the same advice I would give, but that they will actually listen to. I encourage anyone with younger children that NOW is the time to start being strategic about placing the right people in your kids’ lives so that when they become teenagers the trust is already there for your teens to go to them.
This season challenges me to stay the course, keep the end in mind, keep short accounts of conversations, let go, draw closer and talk (sometimes cry) to my perfect Heavenly Father. ABOVE all, do whatever it takes to keep the lines of communication OPEN. Irrespective of whether the switch is up or down ... because while it can flip any second ... open lines, unconditional love, a calm and listening ear, wisdom from above and a willingness to say sorry... will get us through this season.
I have to believe that. I am not there yet ... I will keep you posted.