There are three things that have loomed up at me as I have worked with teenagers for the past 12 years and as I have parented my own kids as teenagers. But I have to say that these three things have not come into focus until this year. The first one I have known all along and I know that you know this one too and that is love. Our kids need to know and feel that we love them and the love needs to be as pure and unconditional as we can make it. We have to love them because they are ours and they are beautiful. We all have our conditions and part of our journey is minimizing those conditions until we just love them. Many of us and I am including myself in here big time, mistakenly think our kids are going to be like us and the more you get to know them, the more you realize just how uniquely their own that they are.
The second one peels right off of the first and that is that we have to allow our kids to be who they are and that involves some figuring out on their part. I personally have kept a pretty tight grip on mine over the years that I have now had to loosen up on. The kids can’t realize who they are when we do that and parents can actually go through their entire life not knowing their son or daughter.
The third one follows logically that kids need to “try on” different things in order to discover themselves. I was brought up to think that you needed to know where you were going and proceed directly and completely to that education, career, and life. We didn’t want to lose momentum and motivation and sometimes parents fear that if their kid gets derailed they will never get back to the meaningful life path. What we don’t realize is that what may appear to be a derailment often isn’t. I have learned from watching my own kids that you can start with one direction and invest quite a bit of time in it and then realize that it is not right for you.
I want to tell you that the kids need permission when they seem to stall or want to switch gears that it is okay. Whatever effort a person has put into trying out a career path, school, job, or interest, even if it is not the one they are going to eventually go with, they will take what they learned with them and it becomes a part of their total experience and what they bring to their life. Sometimes kids have to try on a few outfits (career paths or directions) before they know which one looks and feels the best. The best thing we can say to them is “I know you are figuring it out. I’m okay with it. Let me know if you need anything from me.”