I’ll be the first to admit that living with teenagers can be one challenging ride. It’s quite a perplexing chapter to parent young adults who are forming (and modifying!) their identities daily. They feel ready for lots of stuff for which they are in no way ready. There are moods and unpredictable behavior. And don’t get me started on the condition of their rooms or new expenses that arise!
The whole friend/authority thing is confusing, too. While we understand it can be unwise and unhealthy to be our teen’s friend, there are plenty of moments it feels perfectly natural to do so—to laugh, shop, share music, and learn new things together as friends.
One thing I am sure of: we cannot resolve to simply “survive” this developmental chapter. That won’t serve anyone. Instead, we can be more intentional about savoring our teens. Savoring? The quality that makes something interesting or enjoyable is what it means to savor, and I bet if you pause for a moment, lots of “interesting” will spring to mind. When we choose to savor our teens, we are able to avoid seeing only pitfalls and will not be able to miss the glories.
The following reminders are from a parent (me) who truly understands those days when a teen driver forgets to open the garage door before backing out (and all those bizarre fashion choices!). There is all sorts of sweetness to be found when, as parents, we adjust our attitudes and squint just a little.
1) You both made it through childhood intact.
Cue the confetti! This victory is worth celebrating. Really! It wasn’t always rosy—remember chronic ear infections, all those meals they couldn’t cut up their own pork chop, and those mortifying demonic temper tantrums in the grocery cart? You made it. You rule.
2) You probably have more time now.
And time is money. Teens are lower maintenance in terms of their physical needs and supervision so you likely have more time now for your personal interests. Suddenly you are free to explore what makes your heart sing or devote more time to church, a career, or your spouse. The pressure to rush home to the sitter or carve out “mommy and daddy time” is over and probably a welcome change. If your kids used to make you feel guilty about leaving them, I bet this is history. Traveling or entertaining guests at home? Suddenly much less-stressful.
3) You have the opportunity to have more meaningful discussions.
It’s one thing to discuss matters of faith or politics when they’re ten. But as young adults, exchanges about life, philosophy, and character truly make a difference. You teen may come to you for spiritual guidance or ethical dilemmas, and engaging her in such conversations (with compassion and understanding) can have significant consequences.
4) Their identity crisis makes you more accountable.
At first blush, this may not sound savor-worthy, but think about it. As they are forming opinions and making discoveries about themselves, you are probably held more accountable in the process. That’s good for both of you. Are you worried about the dangers of alcohol and drug-use? If so, you are likely modeling better behavior since they are watching closely. Part of their process as they clarify who they are morally and ethically is influenced by interactions with you.
5) You may have more household help.
It’s nice when there are strong arms around capable of operating a vacuum, the microwave, and the washing machine. Even if you have to nag, sending them to the grocery store is a perk. And it’s easy to forget that just a short time ago you had to drag them with you on those boring errands, but now they can stay behind happily.
6) There’s a whole world of wonder to enjoy together now that they’re older.
Whether it’s a sitcom you both love, baking, a sports team, Scrabble, cars, a book series, or pilates—don’t forget that many such activities were not options when they were little. You likely yielded to their child-related interests and developmental needs at the time (and Dora!). Now there is engaging stuff for both of you to enjoy together.
Michele Ranard is a professional counselor, academic tutor, and freelancer with a blog at hellolovelychild.blogspot.com.