I want to share what I experienced the last two weeks. As I spoke to students last week the subject of parents kept coming up. Two groups independently wanted to address the topic and so we did. As we talked I realized that the students needed to get this out, so we continued the discussion this week.
The topic of parents is not an easy one to address. As a new parent myself I have already made many mistakes and had to apologize even to my 3 year old about my inability as a parent (specifically, getting angry over nothing and not handling things correctly). As I sought to help these students vent their frustrations, I hoped to help focus them as well on what would be helpful for them to know about dealing with parents.
Here are the questions that I used to help lead the discussion:
What is your purpose in life?
What is your parents purpose for your life?
What things are your parents doing to help you succeed?
What about things that are in the way of you succeeding?
What would you do differently than your parents have done?
How do you deal with not being able to control your parents?
What can you learn from situations you are in with your parents?
In order to not make this too long I will hit the highlights.
The first thing I noticed was that about half of the students have at least an idea of what their “purpose” is. All I wanted them to do was think about the possibility of a purpose for their life and several had. The sad thing was almost all of those said their parents had a different plan for their life than what they were thinking and that the ones that couldn’t verbalize a purpose did know what their parents plan was. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t all bad. I think it is great for these parents to let their kids know their expectations. The problem is, the fact that teens didn’t know what they wanted to do themselves says to me that parents don’t ask that either, they just tell what they want.
Secondly, almost all of the students could come up with ideas for what they would do different from their parents. The problem is that most of them will not follow through. Why is that? I believe because they don’t think they really can or don’t see any reason to (goes back to the purpose question.) They will do what many of us do and fall back into what we know. So how do we change that? Teen Lifeline is hoping that these groups and in the future working with parents will stop the cycle of bad parenting and start helping the next generations know how to parent well.
Finally, I have a question. How do we balance the fact that teens are immature but yet need to grow up? I believe this balance is possible by having a mix of boundaries and responsibilities that teenagers know and accept. This is complicated when you have multiple teens and the boundaries and responsibilities needs to be different for each one. That is why it is up to the parents and why Teen Lifeline is looking for ways to help equip parents to have the tools they need to find that right balance.
As I have been doing these groups about parents I have also been reading a good book about parenting. It is called The Space Between by Walt Mueler. Take the time to find it at a store or on Amazon.com and then read it or something like it. It will help you be a better parent and may even help your kids be better teenagers. Allowing you both to Live Life Better.