Our kids do not become teens overnight…
I was thinking this recently as I tossed and turned – fending off hot flashes and praying for sleep.
We really do grow with them, and day by day without even really realizing it, we become used to the fact that they are at the age of pushing boundaries, experimenting with different things and exploring their sexuality. By “used to it” I don’t mean that we just are okay with anything and everything, but I think we start to reconcile with ourselves that they are slowly becoming adults and learning about adult things, whether we like it or not.
SO – since they are exposed to so much in high school – sadly way more than we even can imagine, how do we prepare them for the road? How do we talk to them about choices? How do we talk to them about consequences – especially when, at this age, the consequences are so much bigger than when they were little? How do WE be the voice they hear (at least as a whisper) when they are making these choices? I really don’t know.
I have no magic answers but I can tell you what I hope for our family is that we can keep an open line of communication. This means me (a control freak), keeping my judgement to myself, and playing it as cool as possible when they decide to open up.
There has been many a time that I have had to appear nonchalant and “uninterested” on the outside, but on the inside I AM TOTALLY FREAKING OUT!!!
I think teens need to know that if they DO open up to you, it is a safe place for them to do so.
When one of our teens is in the mood to chat about one of those “unmentionables,” noted above, I try and take advantage of the time. This has meant a whole lot of listening and keeping quiet. It has also meant a whole lot of talking (me) when the moment is right, and a whole lot of eye rolling (them). I am trying to not talk “at” them but with them. I recognize that they are becoming adults, but I also keep in mind that we still can reason more completely than they can, and that while those brains are still forming, we have this window of opportunity to put as much knowledge, instances, and “what-if’s” into their heads at as many unsuspecting times as possible. I know that talking, talking, and more talking is important.
I know they have heard the same things come out of my mouth a million times. BUT – what if the one million and second time, it actually sticks.
I’m ok with it. I’m ok with repeating the same things over and over if there is a chance they will hear it…
Another way we are hoping that we get through to them is through modelling. We try and model the behaviour we want to see in our kids the best we can. We are not perfect, by any means but, for example, we are ok with them drinking at a party. We ARE NOT ok with drinking and driving. So, when we go out – even just for dinner, and even if we know we are “under the limit” we always take a cab – always. They know calling us, or a cab is ALWAYS the right decision. No questions asked.
We talk a lot with them about how technology has changed the adolescent experience. How it has accelerated the learning curve for some of these “unmentionables!” Sometimes, I tell them stories from when I was younger – often I tell them how hard it is for them now with social media / phones / technology – but also how it has made their lives more efficient.
A perfect example is when the boys started to drive. I had a rule that they needed to text me whenever they got where they were going. This was met with a sigh, eye roll, and an “ok mom.” But often they would forget, and this incensed me because it is so freakin’ easy for them. They literally text two words – I’m here – and they are done.
So – when they didn’t do it, I would be irritated. The conversation at home would go like this…
“I had the same rule when I was your age. I had to call when I got somewhere. Do you know what that would entail? I would get to the mall, have to find a pay phone, wait for it to be free, make sure I had a dime (yes, I am THAT old) – and physically phone my parents to tell them I had arrived. Now THAT my teens, is a pain in the ass. But, in order to have the privilege of driving, it was what I had to do.
So pick up your damn phone and text those two words and we will stay friends…”
On the other hand, in the “olden days,” when I was at home and not with my friends, I had relative peace. I didn’t have a device showing me every second what each and every person at my school was doing at any particular time. I didn’t have pictures of kids vaping, smoking weed, playing drinking games, and exposed body parts at my fingertips. This HAS to be an added anxiety for our kids. Dick pics were not a thing when I was 18.
We have to be present in our teens lives – so present that the technology – the images, the opinions and the options, are less influential than we are. Is it possible? I don’t know. But I do know that in raising our children, each day is another chance for us to help them navigate the road – bumps and all. Every family has to decide their comfort level regarding how they discuss and accept or deal with the “unmentionables.” But as parents, our end goal is usually the same – to instil values that will help them navigate outside influences as they become more independent people on the journey to becoming adults.
As a mom, I want to run ahead and smooth out those bumps for them – I don’t want them to hit any potholes or heaven forbid, have an accident. But, as my husband always says, “as much as we want to, we cannot pave their road, we can only prepare them for it.”
How did he get so smart anyway?
My musing for the day…