What parent doesn’t occasionally agonize over the challenges that teenagers bring to a family environment? Because of raging hormones and their brain development (I hear that because their frontal lobes are not fully-developed, this accounts for the lack of empathy) there are days where we long for the sweet little dearies who formerly loved family vacations. You know the worst has happened when you shift from thinking that you’ll skate through the typical teenage years you hear that EVERYONE is having but not you (e.g., “My son/daughter will never turn into an evil teen!! We’re so close!”) to hiding out in the upstairs bathroom with your own television. Suddenly, you discover a frequent reminiscing about the days where you seemed to be the smartest parent in the world.

In my teenage son’s eyes, in less than a year I went from an intelligent, savvy, and socially-competent parent to some sort of import from an alien galaxy where only fumbling fools were allowed to live. My job: never talk to him or his friends at a school function for fear of embarrassment (his) and concern for my future (“Mom you ruined my life! Don’t ever talk to my friends again, it’s soooo embarrassing!)

Lately, I will admit my fantasies alternate between running away to a spiritual retreat for mothers of teenage boys and seeking revenge by sneaking into their room at night and lopping off the hair that they are convinced looks cooler than Bono. The retreat scenario involves me stumbling into a new guru who can teach me how to muster the patience to endure them both until they leave for college, where of course they realize that nobody is going to do their laundry and consequently have an epiphany about my contribution to their life. In this fantasy, I become little grasshopper, completely centered in the eternal moment of now, and return home enhanced with boatloads of techniques guaranteed to establish my place in the world again. Being a positive thinker, I am convinced it can happen if I keep practicing the Law of Attraction.

Bringing balance into a household with teenagers can be challenging and there is no manual or prep course for the daily angst. So, take comfort right now. You have to ride it out. Teenager’s needs are so very different from little kids. However, while cultivating (and encouraging!) their independence, they still need a lot of behind the scenes guidance in order to become good decision makers.

I believe the best way to survive these years is to show them, no matter what their convoluted perception is of you and the world, that you are loved by others. (Yep, my oldest has actually outlined his career goals. He’s going to be a C.I.A. agent and sell antiquities on the side. And never get married.) Because they can’t generate that much love on their own at this point in time, it’s a plus to show them that you are not yet capable of turning Vulcan. Other people do exist that love and appreciate you. My theory is that soon they will ask these people for advice (because they won’t ask you for any) and maybe your friends and work colleagues can slide in a few bonus complements about you.

Ah well, maybe that is fantasy number three emerging.

The best thing we can do, if you are commiserating with the energy these words are carrying, is to continue to show them you are competent and empowered. Also, show them you can set a goal and be dedicated to reach it no matter your circumstances. In addition to keeping your sense of humor, here are four tips on raising teens. Thus far, I hope this advice is working in my own home (you can check back with me in about 3 years):

Pick your battles. Teens are supposed to push the envelope. Let them, with well defined rules and consequences and don’t worry so much about who seems to be winning the argument. Work hard to speak logically. Less is more. When you disagree, spend more time listening before delivering the final blow (No, you can’t come to London with us in October for a weekend, you’re supposed to be studying at college! No, you can’t publish my personal email in your EBay business! No, you can’t sell the living room furniture on EBay!)

Respect their privacy. It tugs on your heartstrings when they don’t spill everything right away. Give them their space, and let them know you are available when they need you, not when you need them. The most precious and productive time is when it is on their terms, not yours. Take advantage of the times they drop a transportation bomb on you when you just sat down to vegetate in front of the tube after running errands all day. (“All my friends are going to the movies, can I please go too?”) Use car time to share something important. Chances are, they will spill their guts because they feel they owe you a favor (of course, they will never admit it.)

Grow with them. As they mature, you have to relate on new terms. And give yourself permission to make mistakes as they make theirs. It’s part of life! All perfectionists please note this phrase: Little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems. As their strife gets larger, so will your patience and capacity to love. It’s all part of the journey. And it won’t resemble anything like your average sitcom.

Make your home a sanctuary. Your home needs to be a loving, forgiving place where everyone feels safe. They’ll bring their friends – and you’ll always know where the party is. And never underestimate the power of food. Have a full frig and let their friends feel comfortable helping themselves. Time spent gathered in the kitchen around any meal is an ancient invitation to share something. Chances are, those will be among your greatest opportunities to pass on parental wisdom, cleverly disguised, of course.

Today’s parents have an amazing level of responsibility. Do your best to get everyone on the same page. The family unit needs to work together so teens understand that parents have goals too. Yes, you do have a gift to give the world outside the home. If you are fortunate to have a partner, show your teenagers what a good partnership entails. I believe it’s possible for everyone in a family to reach personal and professional satisfaction – no matter what planet we’re from.

© The Goddess Network, Inc. and Charlene M. Proctor, Ph.D. 2007. All Rights Reserved. See http://www.thegoddessnetwork.com/connect.php?page=eshow for more empowering thoughts for women! Register for The E-Show, a series of enlightening lectures!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Charlene M. Proctor is the founder of The Goddess Network, Inc. an on-line educational resource for topics on spirituality, relationships, and women's studies. Author of Let Your Goddess Grow! she is a researcher and educator in the field of women's empowerment and develops self-empowerment strategies for women in all walks of life. She is a subject matter expert for Beliefnet.com, the world's largest self-help and personal growth website. Her affirmations from The Women's Book of Empowerment reach 2.7 million web visitors daily. She currently facilitates the PATH to Empowerment program for Lighthouse Path in Michigan, a residential women's shelter for homeless mothers, teaching them how to cope with life and increase self-esteem and confidence. To learn more, visit http://www.thegoddessnetwork.net

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