The glorious phase of parenting a teenager

Let us look forward to be parent of lovely teenagers. Let us test ourselves to be better human beings and practise compassion

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It took me 2 years to see the beautiful orchid flower blooming
It took me 2 years to see the beautiful orchid flower blooming

In this age of “labelling”, “instant news” and “quick tips on how to”, I find myself relaxed and perplexed at the same time. We have ready help at hand, and at the same time, we are forever on a quick diet. Forever looking for a pill almost which will relieve us of our stress and agony. We take the stress for granted. As if it has been given to us on a platter and we absolve our accountability. We do not always pause and take the time to dig deep. Dig deep into ourselves and get to the root cause.

As parents, we often hear about the challenges which lie ahead of us when the kids become teenagers. The rejection, the bad behaviour, the irresponsible actions and the closed doors by young people are most inevitable. Teenagers are made out to be almost like “demons” which we cannot escape as parents. We forget that we have been teenagers too. We have also grown slowly and timely to adulthood. We have made mistakes too. We have found more solace in our friends than in our parents. Instead of asking why and understanding why, we take the stress for granted. We start building strategies and tactic to handle the situation, to protect ourselves. 

The question remains, who is protecting the teenagers and holding hands to guide them through the growth phase?

I often ask the question “why”. Why is the general perception so scary around the innocent lot? Where have we gone wrong? Where is the dissonance coming from? And why as parents, we are apprehensive about this period instead of looking forward to the years? Isn’t it just a matter of years, that they will leave the nest? Where has our love and affection gone?

Is our so-called “love” conditional upon their “good” behaviour”?

And then yesterday, while I was driving back home after dropping my daughter to school, a light dawned on me. I was driving and my mind was full of chatter. I was trying very hard to still my mind. After a couple of years of meditation practice and different studies, I have learnt to understand and accept the elements of the monkey mind. I have learnt that we need to observe the mind when the chatter is on and stay detached to the nitty gritty of the content. It is an arduous and consistent effort to be able to keep your mind still and focussed in the samsaric world. 

The transition from a chattering mind to a silent mind is very unsettling. And then I understood, that the reverse phenomenon takes place when the child becomes an adolescent. It is not only the factors of hormones, the brain and the physical bodies which are changing.

It is the entire ecosystem as they experienced in the past which is changing for them.

Here are 5 things which in my experience are the major changes:

  • They are going to schools with enormous pressure on academics. At this stage, they are learning accountability. Their grades start to matter.
  • They are suddenly given the responsibility to be responsible for their daily chores. It is almost an expectation and we start treating them as “grown-up” adults as if to drive home the message, that we have done enough of your chores. 
  • They have to navigate their own social circles. Their peer group is also going through similar growth pangs and much less polite and accommodating towards each other. The acceptance and rejection almost carry on, daily. And they are expected to act like grown-ups.
  • They move from a sheltered and protective environment to making real-life choices. They choose what music, books, friends, food, clothes etc, that they would like to have in their lives. And inadvertently, they make some good and not so good choices along the way.
  • Their heads are abuzz with the chatter of society, the social media and the rest of their inner demons. 

This is a lot to process. The process is very unsettling to say the least. And adult parents still hold on to the “my sweet child” perception and acceptance. And if they hold on to that for too long, it is very soon that the growing person says, “to hell with it”. 

So, what is the solution? Actually,

there is no solution because there is no problem at all.

It is NOT  a problem, that my kids are growing through to adulthood. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be a support so that they can grow to learn responsibility and accountability.

We ought to manage ourselves and not them in the process of growth.

As they are accommodating the chatter in their minds, we can learn to understand and accept the changes. We can learn to observe ourselves and calm the chatter which is happening in our minds. We can learn to allow for the mistakes they make along the way. If the bed is not made, we can always express our tiredness to be able to carry out the daily chores, and invoke compassion, instead of rebuking them. And if we have the energy, time and patience, we can make their beds. We need to understand, that a clean bed is “our” expectation and need and not theirs, at this time. It is okay to help them out, and also asking for help, whenever we need it.

What they need is a safe environment and not a place where they are judged and reprimanded every now and then. A mistake made could be called out and discussed, but not held as a sword over their heads. 

There are no 3 or 5 things to do when you are a parent. But we can always raise the standard of our behaviours high, especially when you are tested. Remember the basic lesson, “treat people like the way you’d like to be treated”. Shun the society’s acceptable norm or behaviour, and focus on the individual human being – a beautiful teenager growing up to be a more beautiful human adult.

I write this not to preach, but to encourage each of us who are privileged to have the opportunity to shape the world. Let us make sure that we make a positive change to this world and celebrate our teenagers.

With love to all the parents, caretakers and the teenagers of the world. May you be happy and enjoy the growth process.

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