Reflecting on Teen Parenting


For the past few months, for some reason or other, I was drawn in the direction of Teen Parenting.  Aside from the programme run by my partner, Dolly Yeo, on parenting in particular on teens, I seem to attract all things relating to teen parenting.

Last week, I was with some friends celebrating a birthday.  The conversation somehow drifted to managing teens and the difficulties that went along with it.

One said, “Teens nowadays would not listen to you.  You tell them one thing and they will do another.  They would listen to friends and others but me.”.  Quite a few agreed.

On the same weekend, I met another ex-colleague and again the conversation was unconsciously steered toward parenting.  You quickly picked up on the self-justification on how different the world is today, parenting is becoming more difficult and there is nothing much you can do about it.  Such is the defeatist attitude.

I have no research to back up what I am going to say since I have not gone interviewing people but from what I observed and read, there may be some differences over the years but the fundamentals are the same.  We just need to adjust the fundamentals to the current “reality”.  What significantly is different is the expectation of people because of the wide exposure to world events that changes our perspective.

What remain the same are many and just to name the more significant ones are:

  • the changes in the development of a child’s life from toddler to young children, from young children to pre-teen, from pre-teen to teen, from teen to young adults, from young adults to full-blown mature adults
  • the differing needs of one’s live in these  stages of development
  • hormonal effects on teen behaviours

Most of the problems start with not understanding the needs of these development stages, failure to recognize these stages of change and being at odds in handling the transitions effectively.  Many a times, aside from parents not being aware of their own emotional attachments, it is the refusal and inability to let go that hampers the child’s growth that frequently escalates into worsening relationships between parent and child.

Interestingly in spite of the abundance in research and information on parenting, there are still quite a number who would rely on their own childhood experiences as guiding posts in their parenting style.

Parents who are least self-aware tend to regress into denial and refuse to look at options to manage the situation; preferring to insist that their children go their way or no way.

Recently, I started reading “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute.  She was very candid and open in relating her personal story in this book that also covers her experiences and triumphs in parenting not only her own children but also a stepson. She talked of her struggles, the continuous learning from the evolving changes in her life and the growth she had along with those  of her children.

Parenting is difficult because while we are trying to manage the changes in our children, we are also managing our own.  Problems start when we only focus on the changes, learning and growth of our children but not ours.  Successful parenting is in recognizing that there is a need for parallel learning on different panes of both parent and child and taking the right actions.  Managing, perhaps, is not the right word but rather learning from the process of living and acting in the roles we are in at any given time.

Even as one has several children, the knowledge one gains from raising a child is different from that of another child of the same parentage.  To say, “I have no problem with my older child” does not eliminate issues raising from the second by the pure nature of their differences.

If you have not read “Broken Open”, I would suggest that you do.  It helps you to reflect and hopefully learn from her musings and insights.

As I read, I was taken back in time of those days of being a surrogate mother of sorts to my younger siblings when my mother passed away.  I was then thirteen.  Letting go of mothering in later years, even for me not being a mother in the real sense of the word, had been difficult.  I had to control the urge of being overbearing and protective and be conscious of what and how I say things to get the response I wanted.  I did, however, manage to be rather level-headed perhaps because I too was a teenager at that time.  I was not much older than either of my siblings.  I knew how I wanted to be treated and accord them the same courtesy and hence I was able to maintain very close relationships with them till this day.  I was managing on three levels:  my own growth, my siblings’ and the relationships with our new stepmother who joined our family when all three of us were still teenagers.  I am sure you can imagine the chaos but that would be a story for another day.

My background has certainly contributed to my appreciation of parenthood issues.  Reading and hearing others talked about parenting inevitably drags out my past experiences and I try to decipher new learnings from all these so that I could use them to help others in theirs.   Still there remains much to learn and there never can be an end to it.  Are you on the road to learning or are you content to being a bystander in your life?

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