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I think it is safe to assume that everyone reading this is either a teenager or used to be a teenager. Do you ever look back at your 16-year-old self and feel like punching yourself in the face?
I was a late bloomer. I made it to 17 incident-free, but seriously... what was I thinking?
It breaks my heart to see parents with errant teens, saddened by their choices and seemingly helpless to correct them. Blank stares, slammed doors, late nights. Teenagers. It breaks my hear to see teenagers – angry, frustrated and unable to effectively communicate with the ones who brought them into this world.
I'm not telling you it is easy, or that you can fix it, or, more importantly, that it is anyone’s fault this is happening.
Let’s be honest: Teens have a mind of their own, and despite the best upbringing possible, sometimes they want to do their own thing. The good news is, it probably won’t last forever. It will feel that way, but really, give them two to five years of sheer rebellion, and they’ll realize the grass is greener on innocence side.
Bottom line: If they aren’t doing anything illegal (and I mean by the law’s standards, not yours) then the chances of you a) knowing about it and b) doing anything about it without completely cutting them off is low. However, that doesn't mean you cannot keep reaching out and eventually break through.
1. Listen. On those rare occasions they do want to talk, just listen. Don’t offer your opinion or advice until solicited.
2. Don't push. I know, it is your child, your baby, your legacy, and they are trampling all over it. Kids have to learn from their own mistakes. Until they make them, they’ll never know that indeed, you were right about everything.
3. Love. In the eventual return of your child to sanity and morals, welcome them back with open arms. Don’t allow the mistakes they have made to ruin your relationship. Yes, ground rules may need to be set, but there is nothing more disheartening than a teen finally coming to their senses, reaching out for a way back and being denied. As a teen, try and remember that your parents do love you.
There may be an opportunity to be open and candid with your teen about your own checkered past (assuming you have one). Be careful with your words. Don’t imply that rebellion is acceptable because everyone comes out unscathed on the other side. The fact is not everyone does.
Bad decisions in your teen years can lead to life-altering or life-ending changes.
If you are a teen reading this, know that your decisions affect everyone around you. I know that you think you are living in your own world and you are your own person but let me break the news to you, you are still a kid. You are a teenager masquerading as a responsible adult that has no idea what to do next.
Have some mercy on your parents. They don’t know what to do next either.
Be smart. Be open. Be available.
As they say, “This too shall pass.”