One teenager I know recently dropped out of school and was sent abroad for treatment. Unbeknownst to her parents, she had become addicted to hard drugs. Tens of questions abound: where did she get the drugs from, why did she do it (she had everything going for her),what’s going to happen now?
The where is an easy one to answer: in this day and age, any smart teenager can get hold of anything. The why is complex and it is pointless to speculate.The what is an unknown – some recover from drug addiction seemingly unscathed, some are marked permanently by the experience, and some don’t survive.
The point is, your teenager’s world is no longer completely enclosed by yours. Teenagers begin to formulate a separate, independent existence from yours as they grow into adulthood. They obtain the pillars to construct their new world from peers, teachers, from social media and from their own world-view. Thus, the early years when you still have a large influence, are ever so important.
Because you will find that your teenagers’ views could be very different from yours. I have five children, and they vote differently because of their different political views. Two of my five children are Brexiteers, two anti and one neutral. Of course we had many lively debates but heck, can I get them to vote my way? Nope.
And as a parent, there’s little you can do about your teenagers emerging new world. Your words no longer have the same gravity.
Thus, stay close to them. Knock on their bedroom door, be a regular guest there. Watch a movie together, send an email together. Go for long rides or walks, just one parent and one child. Be silent with each other. Get comfortable being close. Learn to fit into their world instead.
And most importantly, don’t talk, but listen instead. Be a solid permanent presence in their lives.
And maybe, you get to be one of the pillars of your teenager’s new world. Parenting may well be the best thing you ever do in your life, but my God, it is definitely the toughest, if you were to do this job well.