Being a teenager is challenging. And anyone with children is warned from their toddler years to brace themselves for what’s to come in the teenage years. Parents spend many nights (and personal online therapy sessions) working through various gut-wrenching scenarios of their precious tot. Getting involved in drugs, getting pregnant, or falling in with the wrong crowd during their teen years.
Parents spend so much time focusing on the safety and development of their kids that they miss the one thing that can be one of the most devastating things to a parent; letting go. In this article, we will give you some insights into this phase of your child’s life. And also help guide you through your own personal parental struggles during this time.
The Empty-Nester Misconception
Just like the drug-and-bad-friend-monsters parents plan to fight during the teen years, parents have also long since braced themselves for the empty-nester phase. Everyone is well aware of the fact that the children will leave the house, and you will need to adapt. It can be a very sad, and lonely time for many parents as they go through a grieving process. But the thing most parents do not know is that that phase can actually hit much earlier.
The teenage years are an incredibly important phase in a child’s life. They’re not just rebelling against your authority, opinions or ideas and pushing boundaries to push your buttons. They are busy establishing their own to take with them in the wide, wide world. Just like fledglings, this is their time to spread their wings and try to fly. All whilst still in a safe space and under the watchful gaze of their parents.
But this necessary pushing away and getting ready comes with a certain degree of loss that parents will need to grieve. A teen “moving away” from their parents whilst still living in their house can mean:
- Loss of control. Your child is no longer just going to accept whatever you tell them and do whatever you tell them to do & you are no longer able to protect them against things such as heartbreak.
- The loss of companionship. You and your child might’ve been attached by the hip for many years, and suddenly she/he wants to do their own thing.
- A lack of communication. The tiny tot who whispered secrets into your ear is gone and in her/his place is a teen glued to her/his phone chatting with friends about all their dreams, fears, and secrets.
- Feeling a loss of closeness. This is inevitable in any relationship where intimacy decreases and one person starts feeling “shut out”.
How to Let Go
Letting go and letting your teen start their journey of independence is the ultimate balancing act. You need to do this in such a healthy way that it doesn’t mean simply allowing them to run amuck, and also leaves your sanity intact. If you were in a personal online therapy session, we would give you the following advice:
Start Making the Shift from Rule Enforcer to Advisor & Guidance Counselor
By now, your teen should know the difference between right and wrong very well and what it means to be respectful. He/she should also know about and be able to take responsibility for things like cleaning their room.
Bringing down the hammer and using the old “I’m gonna count to three…” is not going to have the same effect anymore. In fact, it might either have the complete opposite effect (rebellion, remember?) or simply have them burst out in laughter. During this time, your role changes. Instead of enforcing rules like a prison guard parent, you need to give guidance and advice.
Tell them the why behind things. Or share your experience or opinions. And then leave it up to them to experience the consequences of their decisions themselves. For example, you can advise, but your son is still going to be the one the one ultimately deciding who he wants to date.
Leave Hands-on Guidance in the Rearview Mirror & Embrace Hands-off Availability
There was a time that you as a parent actively had to guide and physically steer your tot away from the swimming pool. But having the same type of approach with your teen will only harbour feelings of resentment. And encourage the type of rebellion that you’ve always feared.
Whilst you’re not going to be able to follow your teen to her friend’s house party, you want and need to be the person they call when they might succumb to peer pressure and get drunk or have a “bad trip”.
You’ll be Influencing, Not Controlling
An example often used during a personal online therapy session is that of an acting family. Most actors or actresses will tell people that they didn’t want their children to be in the industry.
In fact, they actively advised them against it, sharing their own horror stories. Yet, that is the path their child chose. They tried to influence their decision but ultimately had no control over it. Sharing your thoughts, opinions, and own experiences (in a healthy way!) is a helpful tool when working with teens. But, once again, you cannot force it down their throats.
You Need to Acknowledge & Empower vs. Deny & Protect
This is something we often have to actively work on in personal online therapy. A good example of this would be teens and their sex lives. You can choose to live in denial that your teen has any desires or urges and think the go-to way to ensure celibacy is to never let them go out. But this will most certainly end in disaster – for you and your teen’s relationship as well as your teen’s sex life.
The better and healthier approach is to acknowledge the changes in their bodies and feelings. Empower them with knowledge. And even provide them with the protection of their choosing if they do decide to be sexually active.
Don’t Take it Personally
Yes, your teen now prefers to go to the movies with their friends rather than stay in for your traditional family movie nights. But this is a natural life progression that shouldn’t be taken personally. And how you handle it will have a big impact on your relationship going forward.
Do not get angry, or revert to passive-aggressive retorts that can range from the silent treatment to guilt trips. Scolding your child or reminding them of everything you’ve done for them is not going to make them want to spend more time with you.
Take it Seriously Though
As an adult, you may already know that a break-up or getting a bad grade during your teenage years is not a life-imploding event. But they do not. In their teenage world (the only one they know), these things can be quite devastating. It’s essential to acknowledge their feelings, validate them and not make the incident off as “not important”.
Allow Them to Fail
This is probably the hardest concept to come to terms with during the teen years. We sit with many tormented parents during personal online therapy who are struggling with it. It may appear to be counterintuitive. The kids are bigger and so are the potential problems and dangers. And instead of wrapping them in cotton wool or locking them away (for their own safety, of course), parents have to let them go and allow them to make their own mistakes.
Of course, there are certain times when a parent will still need to parent and protect. But what we’re referring to are those first moments they start to flutter their wings and you don’t know if they’re actually going to stay airborne. It can be your child splurging all their pocket money and then having to say “no” when they come to ask for more. Or it can be warning your child about her boyfriend, only to have him cheat on her, and supporting her through the heartache.
You see, sometimes parents get too focused on their protective role, when, in reality, their main purpose is to prepare their children to be functioning adults out in the world (which includes all the big, bad, and scary things). Children who are not prepared, kept in the dark, or coddled are not going to be able to understand or navigate the world as adults.
The Road to Independence is Also the Precursor for Your Future Relationship
In many ways, your child’s teenage years are a make-or-break situation. Not just in terms of the adult they decide to be, but also for your relationship. Many relationships between parent and child turn sour during this time with some that never quite recovers. We are often roped into these relationship resuscitation efforts later on in life in personal online therapy sessions.
That is why it is so important to walk the thin line between being a supportive and loving parent, vs. a dictator, or a friend. If this is something that you struggle with or think that you are going to struggle with when the time comes, you are more than welcome to reach out to us for some guidance. You can also consider personal online therapy sessions with your teen if you ever find yourself in a relationship stalemate.
Together we’ll be able to navigate this difficult time and ensure that you and your teen’s relationship not only survives the teen years but grows stronger. You can reach us via our Personal Online Therapy Contact Us website page or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can complete the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible: