Our greatest wish as parents, is for our children to grow up happy and independent.
At times, that can often seem impossible when we notice our child changing before our eyes into an agitated, rebellious, mouthy, maybe withdrawn, or a little human who is completely different from us. Don’t give up! There are some things you can do without going mad, which require us to evolve too.
The History of Growing Up
Historically, we just wanted our children to physically survive in times of plague, war, depression.
These days, we not only need to contend with surviving the virus or getting home from the train-station. We have way more expectations exploding out of every part of our lives to deal with. Today, teens are struggling more than ever with their ability to cope with the pressures of life and the world, including school, health, friendships, parents separation.
Back in the day, if our 10-15 year old child survived a significant world event, they learnt the emotional, mental & physical skills to cope in the world as an adult.
For thousands of years, traditional societies recognised the importance of supporting young people to transition safely from one stage of life, teen hood, to adulthood. These Rites of Passages were fundamental in the growth, connectedness and health of the individual and the community.
These days, transition to ‘adulting’ doesn’t seem to happen as easily for our teens because we don’t usually provide our children with a ‘do or die’ situation to make sense of their existence and thus use those skills to transition to adulthood as we let go of the reins.
What our Teens Need Today
Currently we have this huge need in society, to find a way to equip our young people with confidence and tools to tackle the adventures and misadventures of life, because that leads to independence and happiness, the thing they and us want.
In working with tweens, teens & young adults over the last 20 years, parents come to me, hands gripping their burnt out temporal lobe, stating that their once cute little creatures, are driving them abit mad, and they as parents are not loving parenting.
Our teens go through a period of agitation, not always, but usually between the ages of 10-15 years. It’s our child’s way of saying; ‘who am I ?, where is the safe place I can test out who I am in this world ?’. And this is where you come in. There are practical things you can do day to day to help them in their growing up, but it requires persistence, patience and you evolving and being proud of yourself loving you.
Coaching Self Love
We can notice our teen talking themselves down or doing obsessive behaviours or the total opposite – a lack of anything – as a self-soothing strategy to help them cope with being enough or accepted by you, their peers or family.
Some things parents and others surrounding them can do is:
- Role model words & behaviours that affirm self-love, such as taking time out for you, not always being exhausted, and making choices to do what you love and deserve
- Be proud of yourself and saying it ‘I am proud of myself for doing…”.
- Be conscious of not always putting others first or grumbling about putting others first, or being a people pleaser.
- Correct your child, family members or others when they don’t demonstrate self-love or care.
- Surround yourselves with people & community who demonstrate self-love in a variety of ways.
Our teens might be wild fruit cakes sometimes with their emotions, or they might not show any and bottle them up.
You can help kids of any age learn the skill of showing emotion but also owning their emotions. The more words our child can heard around them that describe emotions is helpful and also using ‘I feel’ statements such as “I feel angry because I find it difficult to ask for what I need”.
Seeing other people as supports rather than threats, is a fundamental way our teens can form their sense of identity and stability. How do you do this?
- List all of the people you collectively know and ways you can spend time with these people (alcohol free).
- Brainstorming what are your child’s opportunities to engage with strong and positive adults or young adults
- Being in charge of removing the negative people from your lives and make time for the good people to be part of your lives regularly
There are so many ways we can gradually coach our child to take responsibility for actions but without us breaking their sense of being themselves.
As a parent, if there are some things that don’t impact you around the house, then ignore it. If they listen to Metallica or don’t want to clean their room or, then shut the door.
You can spend time to negotiate and then keep firm on the boundaries around the house when their behaviour impacts the lives of others. If they want these boundaries to expand, ask yourselves where they may have demonstrated something similar and involve them in the decision making for the boundaries and consequences. Learning negotiation skills from you is a great step toward independence.
Don’t hold on too tight to the outcome.
Creating your own Rites of Passage
Lastly, what does a Rites of Passage look like in your house or community?
Rites of Passage – an opportunity for your child to put their skills to the test and transition from tween-hood to teen-hood or teen-hood to adulthood – needs to be present in their lives.
For my child’s school, it is going on a 9 day camel trek where they get to test their metal, friendships, patience, & ability to stay alive (seemingly), and for our family it is going on a 2 week canoe trip that they have helped plan.
Tweens and teens need to experience things out of their comfort zone, they need to be witnessed by their community of support doing this challenge, they need to self-enrolled and willing, and they need a chance to reflect on this experience and share their learnings with others.
I wonder what you can create together to assist in their growing up, and your letting go?
FOUNDER & OWNER OF LITTLE BIG BUSH CAMPS & COUNSELLING
Louise is well known for working with teens, and especially with Mothers and daughters, providing counselling & nourishing bush retreats where parents, tweens and teens can strengthen their connection with themselves and each other. Little Big Bush Camps assist Pre-teens, Teenagers & Adults during the ‘growing up’ years with life transitions.
Having spent her professional life leading nature based personal development programs throughout the world, and her study of Psychology, Counselling, Outdoor Education, Rites of Passage, ecstatic dance, and mindfulness, as well as being a parent herself, Louise has passionately designed and led a team to facilitate workshops, retreats, and counselling programs for tweens, teens and their families throughout South Australia over the past 4 years.