Last night my neighbor and I went up to the high school for what we thought was going to be a presentation about teens and stress. Since we both have teens and interest in the the topic, we felt it would be time well spent getting some pointers from a local psychologist who works specifically with this population.
I found it most interesting for two reasons...(a) because this event was better attended by parents than many I have been to in the past, especially in comparison to those offered on educating and supporting parents around teen drug and alcohol use, and (b) the message I thought we were going to get, namely tips on how to help teens with stress, ended up becoming more of a discussion about parenting.
Which was GREAT, because you know how much I LOVE parents and parenting!
The gist of the presentation centered around how much pressure teens have on them these days, from academics (our particular high school has about 3,400 students), sports, and service projects to social media, all of these areas are coming at teens while they are in the midst of trying to figure out who they are and where they fit into the world.
The presenter circled several times back to the importance of continuing to build and develop a relationship with your child, which may have been easier when they are young, but gets more challenging as they begin to become more independent thinkers during their teen years. And it's a normal/good thing that teens begin to separate and have their own thoughts and ideas.
But not quite so good for those parents in the audience whose greatest desire is to continue to have their child towing the line and doing as told. In the name of, "because I am the parent and that's the way it's supposed to be"...in other words, "because I said so".
This is the way they were raised (as were most of us) and they can't figure out why their child isn't as willing a spirit is they were when their parents dropped the hammer.
For a brief moment I thought to myself, "Maybe God is sending souls into the world whose purpose it is to help create the major change in parenting that's needed to develop future generations of people who care more about loving unconditionally and connection, than getting ahead in life."
What if, right?!
The psychologist did an awesome job of continuing to circle back those parents who raised their comments and objections returning each time to the critical nature of creating a relationship with the child wherein there is more going on (conversation and activities), so the foundation of connection created exists on more than just grades, behavior, sports, getting the job done, and handing out both rewards or consequences.
But, I felt there was one major point missing to the evening..
... if we desire fluid, positive, mutually respectful, trusting, open communication throughout our relationship with our kids not only is it important to spend time and energy working on that relationship and modeling the behavior, but also, as the parent, to look in the mirror and have the courage to ask yourself honestly what you are bringing into this two-way street.
I said courage, because it takes a brave heart to look at yourself and acknowledge your contribution. It's easy to blame other people, media, whatever else you can think of...but, the bottom line is this job we brought on ourselves is heavily influenced by the two people who spent their time and energy modeling for us.
Our own parents.
Who did the best they could with what they knew and as a result of the way they were raised.
There are lots of parents walking around stressed out, overwhelmed, and working hard to cover up wounds they received while growing up themselves.
Doing the inner work needed to heal yourself, will be the best contribution you can bring to the relationship with your child. No matter what age, no matter how much back talk and how many eye rolls you get everyday.
At one point a mother raised her hand and said, "There is so much help for kids these days, but what about PARENTS, where do we get help?"
I had to smile at myself, because she is absolutely right. Which is why I am so glad to be joining the ranks of a small, but growing group of men and women who are helping the parents of this generation to make big, meaningful changes within the parent/child relationships in their lives.
There is help for moms and dads! And it comes in the form of parenting coaching.
All that is required is courage.