Teenagers - When to step back

 
Time is an illusion, timing is an art.
— Stefan Emunds

Getting the transition between parenting (and control) and guiding (and freedom) is tricky. In fact it’s damn hard because often the “right” answer is only obvious in hindsight. That means there is no right answer at the time (i.e. now).

As a parent we spent sixteen or so years in control of our children. At least most of the time! We understand that a major function is keeping them safe. This doesn’t mean wrapping them in cotton wool, but it does mean knowing where they are, what they are doing and who they are with 24x7. As they approach adulthood, through the awkward, mind-altering teenage years we have to pass this control to them. At some point.

In some societies they make this easy for parents, and their logic has some merit. At a certain age they hold a ceremony and each individual passes into adulthood accepting the responsibility this entails. In New Zealand, and in Westernised Countries in general, we don’t have this although the ages of 16, 18 and 21 all have significance usually because our children can now do things legally.

There is a world of difference, however, between passing a numerical milestone versus having the maturity to make adult decisions. On reflection I don’t think I became an “adult” until my early- to mid-twenties and that may be being generous.

Currently I’m in the process of learning when the time is right the hard way. But, to my credit, I am learning. There is little point (I once again discover) in taking a stand only because you have taken that stand. You need to be smarter than that otherwise you run the risk of missing the point (and the boat!). I talk with my children and, importantly, I listen. And, as hard as it is at times, I comprehend. It isn’t easy, but I don’t think there is an effective alternative option. The stress is on the word effective.

If you ask me, listen to your teenagers and keep an open mind. You’ll give yourself the best chance of making good decisions.


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