21 KEYS TO SANITY WHILE STEWARDING TEENS
1. We are rewarded in our willingness to endure difficult, painful, and even messy conversations with our teens, in which complexity, triggers, and tears might arise, on both sides.
2. It’s never about perfect. It’s about stretching into this new, vulnerable territory, wherein the unfathomable profundity of our love gets to include what’s utterly confronting and maddening about the ways our teenagers test, trigger, and call us out.
3. It’s OK to allow the conversations to end badly sometimes, failing to come to perfect, tidy endings. If we can give it the necessary space, this allows the conversations to authentically circle back around for further resolution and evolution.
4. We can trust love enough to let love carry us through this difficult moment/phase/season. We can trust love enough to hang out in the discomfort and pain of lack of resolution together.
5. When we give our teenagers the space to self-reflect, this allows their own choices and behaviors to echo in the chamber of their awareness.
6. We can be ever waiting, with open ears, minds, and hearts, to join in a fresh moment of meeting our teenagers anew.
7. We can stay open to being surprised by how our teenagers show up! We can remember that teens are in a moment of accelerated evolution. We can be careful to not project the disappointment from past exchanges onto the ever-changing present.
8. Sometimes our spacious silence (not to be confused with punitive love-withdrawal, bypass, passive-aggression, or conflict-avoidance) speaks louder than a reactive response.
9. It’s useful to be the more mature and generous one in the relationship! (Duh, I realize, but this can be embarrassingly hard sometimes when our own inner teen is reeling in the face of our outer teen’s behavior.)
10. We can lead the way towards resolution, even while still feeling hurt and upset. We can be the one who takes the conversation and relationship deeper into mutual trust, empathy, and understanding.
11. We must resist the temptation of taking our teenagers’ behavior personally!
Gosh, that’s such a big one. (Easier said than done, right?) I remember when my older child first entered adolescence, a brilliant therapist I was working with said: “You cannot take the behavior of your teenagers personally. It’s their job to test, trigger, and push you away as they discover their distinct selves. They will be awful. They will lie and say and do terrible things to protect their dignity as sovereign beings. And your job is to remember that it’s not personal.”
I confess it wasn’t until my second-born recently entered his unique exploration of adolescence that this teaching has really become relevant for me. Each child is uniquely designed to challenge us in distinct ways as they individuate and differentiate.
12. Cherish chauffeuring them around. Knowing that this exhausting, tedious, sometimes agitating, yet inherently fleeting stage of parenting is over in an instant.
Before long they’re driving themselves, and we are likely missing the intimacy of that time with them.
13. May we never lose sight of the deepest truth of who our children are. It’s powerful also to reassure them of this, continuously.
Sometimes when a relational dynamic has been particularly challenging with one of my kids, I’ll make a point of saying out loud to them, “I see you and I believe in you. I think you’re absolutely amazing. I respect you deeply. Even when things are hard between us, I never forget who you are or how much I love you. It’s virtually impossible.”
14. May we find the courage to surrender our children to their own destinies. (My heart aches to write that last sentence.)
It’s so vulnerable as parents to let our kids live their own lives, to make mistakes, and learn difficult lessons. We’ve been fiercely devoted to keeping them safe and protecting them from harm their whole lives and this primal instinct runs deep. It’s mammalian.
So it can feel excruciatingly counter-instinctual to let our kids go, and to trust them with their own lives, and to trust Life with them!
This is a tightrope of continuous discernment of course; an ongoing navigation of paying close attention, setting limits, guiding them, while also listening to their souls, and stretching to let them explore and experience new levels of independence. As scary as this can feel, we must allow them to discover their own authentic discernment through the feedback they receive from life.
15. It’s humbling to recognize we can’t always know what lessons or tests our kids require in order to attend to their own soul assignments.
16. When we make mistakes with our kids, we can truly apologize. We can model self-reflection and healthy remorse, self-accountability, self-responsibility, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness.
We can validate their emotional intelligence and experience around where we, as their parents, are off, thereby supporting their capacity to track relational nuance and to discover their own boundaries.
17. As we track our own growing edges, limitations, and failures in parenting, we can humbly expose and own this seeing, naming our commitment to do better.
We can let our kids in on our vulnerable insights, intentions, and prayers, which can encourage them to notice what their own insights, intentions, and prayers might be.
18. It’s essential to feel what we feel! When our dynamic with our teens makes us feel broken-hearted or sad or mad or scared or futile, we can face and feel those things directly.
19. What a gift to receive the mirror our kids provide. We can realize this is our work to do, and give humble thanks for the way our teenagers reflection is serving our deepening self-awareness.
We can let this relational growing edge with our child be a mirror for our own spiritual growing edge!
20. We can let our teens be our teachers, guiding us towards ever-more-skillful relating.
21. In our willingness to be fully human alongside our teens, we reveal the ways in which our humanness, in all its tender vulnerability, is part of the holy mess we get to reckon with.
PS: We will be discussing all of these and more in my upcoming low-ticket, 3-Part Webinar Series, entitled: “Gleaning The Treasure in Parenting Teens”. Part 1: Meeting the Trigger & Receiving the Mirror. Part 2: Modeling Humanness & Self-love. Part 3: Tracking, Vulnerability, & Surrender.
I’ll be offering a similar one for parents of younger children later this month as well! LEARN MORE HERE