When did they grow up, you ask. When did they get a mind of their own, you process. When did they stop being needy and clingy on mum or dad, you get bewildered. Just when did they grow up?
Every child born, more often than not, is a bundle of joy. The parent’s nurturing, training, moulding and disciplining journey begins. As infants, they are totally dependent on you for care, nourishment and love. As they grow older, you realize that you are the center of their world. They adore you, imitate your every move, run to you when scared for refuge and comfort.
They are ecstatic about the gifts you give them. The girls enjoy hanging out with their moms, helping out in the kitchen, cleaning up the house and doing mom’s hair. The boys thrive in their dad’s presence as they do manly stuff like gardening, washing cars, fixing broken stuff in the house, frequenting the barber and playing manly games.
Then, they grow up and become teenagers!
I have had to go back to my old photo albums a couple of times to remind myself that I am dealing with the same child. My teen daughter prefers doing teen stuff. She’ll stay in her room, all locked up while listening to music or chilling. During the holidays, she will hang out with her friends in groups taking walks, and when it is time to go home, they’ll keep escorting each other endlessly. These teens would rather be on their own hanging out in malls. It does not matter that you will be footing that bill in many instances.
I do not know how many parents out there are like me, struggling with the fact that our adolescents are no longer babies and are all grown up. What strikes me a great deal is that they have their own independent views and opinions. They know exactly what they want to do. This should be a good thing, right?
Their independence probably scares many of us, because it is a realization that they will be out of the nest soon, ruling the world. It therefore seems that we, the parents, are the ones in dire need of preparation for the independence our children crave for. We face the realization that our opinion is not the only one that counts. Your teen has consulted a number of people well before deciding what to do.
We also do fear their independence as they grow because we will lack control over their lives, be it in the choices they make in respect to dressing, music, spending time in family activities, e.g. family vacations or dinners, et cetera. They are keen to explore opportunities out there (whether good or bad). They are willing to take risks. They are ready to chart out their own paths.
As one Dr. Meg Meeker puts it in her blog on Emancipation and Adolescence, the teens are not abandoning you as the parent. They are defining their relationship with you, to move from a pose of physical dependence to physical independence. Our hope can only be found in the relationships we have formed and forged with our children.
Our voice will still count if we have solid relationships with our children. We can remain a source of influence. We should not force our ways on them as this will definitely not work. We should remain dependable, present, reliable as confidants, available to pick up their broken hearts when they get smashed, provide counsel when called upon and even when not called upon, be their sounding board and still remain firm in ensuring boundaries that we have set are observed.
So, how do we cope as they grow more independent day by day?
PRAY for them. TEACH them life skills so that they can cope when they are no longer in your nest, be it work skills, how to set goals and achieve them, emotional intelligence, driving skills (where possible) and financial management.
ACCEPT that you need to start letting go slowly by slowly. You see, one of the biggest challenges or failures of some older parents is that they fail to release their adult ‘children’ and this causes a lot of havoc in their lives. Probably, letting go slowly will cure that matter. Then also, ALLOW them reasonable freedoms.
Just remember that even as they grow older and more independent, they will still need you to provide love, care support and authority. Do not lose heart!