As frustrating as the teenage years can be for parents, they present an opportunity for those parents who are willing to be patient, to take stock of their own strengths and weaknesses, and to perceive their teen’s outstanding gifts, despite their sometimes obvious weaknesses. Are you ready to let go of the child as you knew him – young, dependent, irascible _ and embrace the young adult who is thinking, acting, and directing his own life? Here are some ways to help prepare for this important transition.
1. Be a coach, not a “parent”
You may need to shift your parenting methods from the telling/directing, which may work well with younger children, to the question-asking, dispassionate mode that allows you to help your teenager think through situations, weigh pros and cons, and come to their own conclusions. The older they get, the more they will rely on this important ability to be an effective critical thinker.
2. Set firm, but moderate guidelines
Many college students who had extremely strict parents become most likely to binge drink and “overreact” to their independence out of the nest. Students raised with loose standards at home tend to raise children who don’t learn how to set healthy boundaries. The best strategy for parents is finding a balance. Set clear expectations, but don’t be unreasonable. Expect trust from your teen until that trust is violated.
3. Acknowledge strengths
Each of us has his or her own gifts and talents, but some abilities aren’t recognized in the traditional academic environment. How does your child spend his time? What careers and fields would link to his passions? How can you acknowledge and promote those strengths so that your child can see them as true gifts?
4. Promote options
Teens today are more stressed out than ever because they think they have to “do” all of these steps correctly and then they will be rewarded with some magic ticket to success. Actually, the opposite is true: If they learn to take risks, to deal well with failure, to learn for learning’s sake instead of making an “A,” to seek challenge, to be comfortable with ambiguity, to develop an indomitable spirit, then they will be successful in college, career and life, no matter how many challenges come their way.
5. Be patient with self-discovery
Your teen may not know what she wants to study or what she wants to be when she graduates from high school or college. That’s OK as long as she commits herself to the process of self-discovery. If she can wait expectantly while she is exploring her hunches, landing internships, taking classes that interest her, learning a foreign language, joining an organization, then she will learn about herself. If your teen is not college-bound, the same will apply as they enter the world of work.
If you are willing to step back from the current scene, see yourself and your child from the 50,000-foot perspective, and impart that healthy perspective to your teen, he will be able to deal successfully with any situation as goes off to make his own way in the world.