A few weeks ago…
I was faced with a not-so-lovely 10 hour layover enroute to a much more lovely vacation destination. After listening to a handful of audiobooks, chatting with family, and even striking up polite conversation with strangers – hey, desperate times call for desperate measures – I was still struggling to find something that would occupy my brain and help me escape airport boredom.
So, I decided to swipe through Facebook and get a glimpse of what other people were up to. Most of them seemed to be having more fun than I was while sitting at the airport for the tenth hour in a row. As a naturally inquisitive person, I decided to approach this brief encounter with doom scrolling with a bit of an objective…
I started by focusing on the adults – middle aged and older – in my Facebook feed and paid close attention to posts from people who were also in the midst of summertime travels. I took a moment to reflect on the fact that everyone I scrolled past was once a teenager. At some point in their lives, they were brilliant students, troublemakers, athletes in college, or struggled to get by after dropping out of high school. Everybody’s story had a different flavor, and no single path looked the same.
Some tried alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. Some were honest and kind, while others mastered the art of lying in an effort to get away with “murder,” which was more likely something along the lines of borrowing the car after curfiew to sneak a boyfriend or girlfriend into the house.
Fast forward a few decades…
A large majority of these teenagers – troublemakers and prodigies alike – eventually grew up to find a healthy, fruitful path that they enjoyed. The kids who overindulged in vices like marijuana or alcohol couldn’t tell you what they tasted like if you asked them today. The ones who spent all their free time playing video games have rewarding careers in the tech or IT space. The teens who lied so often were now raising their own kids to prioritize honesty and transparency. And every single one of them did it despite their parents’ concerns, worries, and lack of boundaries.
As these teens grew up, many of them answered to overly stressed parents who were constantly fighting for more control of their kids. Their parents set and broke boundaries,struggled to maintain a sense of power at home, and contributed to an otherwise chaotic upbringing over trivial things like sneaking out and teen flings. And that isn’t to say that experimenting and bending traditional rules is without consequence or danger, but those consequences are for teens to face, learn, and grow through as they age.
I thought about all of the overstressed parents…
The ones who are constantly worried about their kids and the choices they make as they develop into smart, spirited adults. The likelihood is that your teens will grow out of their experimentation phase. They’ll pursue careers and chase their dreams in order to achieve the goals they have developed thanks to an established sense of self.
This is why I invite all parents to ease up a little bit. If you can worry and stress just a little less, and put aside some of your trivial worries, perhaps you’ll welcome peace back into your lives, and the lives of your kiddos.
Learning to let go and trust the process of growing up might result in fewer power struggles and more peace. This might mean that your teens might have to learn from their mistakes, sort through their own motivations, and grow into independent young
adults. Getting burned by a choice or mistake can be a great way to gain insight on how to approach things next time.
Teenagers test boundaries, and one of the best ways we can help them grow through this phase is letting them figure things out for themselves. Didn’t you do the same thing as a teenager? You can’t stop bad things from happening. Whether they happen under
the safety of your own roof, on the road, or away from the home, your kids will encounter temptations and trouble wherever they go. It’s your job to instill confidence in them in order to help them step up to the plate and make healthy choices in the face of these encounters.