What a fascinating, exciting, fun, and scary time in life. You begin to feel the first waves of independence. Getting to go to the mall alone. Driving a car by yourself. Going out with friends without parents. Having a relationship with someone. And the first waves of responsibilities. Your first job. Figuring out what college to attend. Making the grades to get into said college. Having a boy/girlfriend that you must spend time with and think of. Buying a car.
All of these things are exciting. I still remember feeling the emotions of that time. Every emotion was exagerated tenfold. Sometimes I felt so out of control. One minute extreme joy and the next extreme sadness. Such a roller-coaster.
As a mom of teens, I am experiencing this age a bit differently. I am now on the receiving end of these roller-coaster emotions. That is not as much fun and not nearly as exciting. There are times I just shake my head at their forgetfulness, their lack of hearing, their mood swings.
I think the scary part of parenting teens is that you get to start watching them trying on adult size opportunities/problems. They goof up, they make poor choices, and then we panic and think we didn't do a good job raising them. So then most parents start pulling the teens in and restricting their access to these opportunities/problems. I think this is where the tension lies for parents and teens. What we must remember as parents, is that this is EXACTLY what they are supposed to be doing. "Trying on" these situations and it is in the messing up that they actually learn how to be an adult. Come on, do you get it perfect all the time now? Of course not! It is through our mistakes that we learn. Our teens deserve the same grace we give ourselves.
They have heard you. They have learned all the things you have taught them. But they have also heard some other voices, teachers, peers, coaches. So they want to try out different solutions, different thoughts, different ways of doing things, to find what works for them. It doesn't mean you need to hit them over the head even harder and louder with your views and beliefs, you've had the last 13 years for that. Trust them.
I was recently taught this very lesson by my son. In true teenage boy fashion, he has given us some "opportunities". He has tried out many different views and tried out lots of solutions, and we have not always liked his choices, and have had to intervene a couple of times. (you cannot let them hurt themselves or break the law) But last week, my son wrote a story for his Creative Writing class. This story blew me away. It held within its lines all the lessons we have tried to impart to our children. He has been listening! There was even evidence that he listened to his dad's sermons! He has not only been listening, he has adopted some of those core beliefs for his own. It was such a rewarding moment reading that story.
So, parents of teens, know that you have been heard, and it is okay if your kid messes up. I know you fear the worst, dying, being arrested, getting pregnant, getting someone else pregnant, getting AIDS, etc. But you have to make a choice, are you going to parent out of fear? Because not only are our kids listening, they are watching.