Our teens need us for guidance and emotional support and stability while they endure tough personal transformation. All of you lovely readers know this. Teens may act like they don’t need us, but we are not easily fooled by their cries of, “I hate you!” and “I’m the only kid in the whole school who won’t be at the party!’ We signed up for this parenting gig years ago and even if the going gets tough we are not about to abandon ship now.

But how much do WE need our teens?

Ways of seeing

I have heard it brilliantly stated that when you get married you gain a second set of eyes. It’s a lovely thought that in our human limitation, despite what parents sometimes say about having eyes on the back of our heads, two minds really can be better than one. Your partner is someone with a different way of viewing the world, with a different history of approaching everything from conflict to celebration, and s/he is a person with different ideas and strengths.

It’s also true that the different perspectives a partner brings can bring clashing values and priorities, however in this post I’m going to focus on the equation 1+1>2.

During a difficult conversation or a decision making situation, it can be helpful to ask your partner ‘how do you see this?’ or ‘what do you see that I’m missing?’ And I think it’s equally helpful to add this inquiry skill to discussions with your teenager.

We see what we want to see

Unfortunately, adults have a largely unconscious built-in discrimination system that tends to direct the thoughts and feelings of teenagers through a filter of ‘But s/he is only a kid. What does s/he know?’

You didn’t ask for this discrimination system to be installed in your mind, and it’s not your fault that it’s there. None of us are born with this discrimination system, yet those of us who have been the target of discrimination in some way during our lives eventually become a person who shells out discrimination from time to time (hurt people hurt people), even if it’s only in our heads and not out loud. Happily, these thoughts can be brought to conscious awareness, and eliminated, with practice.

I can see!

Humans function better together. When we have diverse folks around us, folks of different ages and backgrounds, we literally ‘see’ more of the world. It’s a great thing! Teenaged eyes can be especially useful. Getting to see the world through someone else’s eyes helps us have a richer, more detailed, and more thorough experience of reality.

I think the greatest thing about teenagers is their views on life, relationships, what’s fair/unfair, and really just everything. This isn’t to say that teens are the wisest gurus around, but rather their unique circumstances of being newer to the game of life and in the middle of rapid brain growth can mean they are less molded by society, more open minded, and more eager to live it up.

Do you need your teen?

Ask yourself the following questions and challenge yourself to see how you benefit from your relationship with your teenager.

In what ways is my life better for having this closeness with a teenager?

What do I know about the world because of my teenager?

What special experiences do I have access to because of my teenager?

What do I get to think and learn about because of my teenager?

In what ways does living with a teenager aid in my personal growth?

It’s not just us parents that win. The whole world wins.

What perspective do teenagers bring to everyday life that is useful and rational and human?

What do teenagers know about living in society that can keep us on the right track?

 

Personally, I need teenagers to remind me that play is important. Like, really important. Life isn’t worth much if it isn’t fun and interesting.

I need teenagers to show me that ‘beginner mind’ is something to be cultivated and treasured.

I need teenagers to remember I can question. Fearlessly.

I need teenagers to bring me down to earth and ground me in the simple connection that can be found in throwing the football together.

I need teenagers to wake me up to the magic that is actually everywhere. In a new airport or an old song or a recurring dream. One day The Boy came home and told me, “I’m going to play you a really great song on YouTube. I think you’ll like it!” As he went over to the computer and turned on the speakers the teenager from next door walked in, and the three of us heard the staccato electronic sounds of Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ flood the living room. I squealed with delight and yelled above the music, “I love this song! It’s from when I was a teenager!” He looked a little surprised, and we all laughed as we broke into a spontaneous, joyous dance party. It was magic.

And I need teenagers around who aren’t my son so that I can have a wider view of the ‘teenage experience’ beyond the primary example who lives in my home. Working as a youth addictions counsellor, being a youth mentor, and hanging out at the dirt jumps (I took the above photo of my son at the dirt jumps last night) have all made me familiar with the lay of teen-land today (as opposed to when I was that age). This helps me be much more relaxed at home with The Boy and able to understand many of the things he is navigating socially and at school. I highly recommend getting to know teenagers you are not related to as a way of seeing your own teen clearer.

 

What do you think is great about teenagers? If you want to write answers below to some of the questions I listed above, that would be fantastic.

 

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