Listen to Your Teen

Recently, I asked a 17-year-old girl to tell me about the pressures that she currently experiences. She immediately talked about the stress of SAT's, preparing for college, peer pressure and parents' expectations. Of course, I was curious about the effects of her parents' expectations on her, but at the same time I could see that her parents were a little nervous to explore this further. As parents, we often feel that we know what's best for our teens and we want them to listen to us. Why are we so nervous to hear about the effects of our good intentions? Are we afraid that we might be wrong or that we might be hurting our kids in some way? Most likely the answer is yes, on both accounts. But, if we are really going to be of any help to our teens during these most pressure-filled times in their lives, we want to set aside the fear and to listen closely. We don't want the pressure that our teens are experiencing in life to drive them to unhealthy ways of coping. I want to be very clear here that I am not engaging in mother-blaming or father-blaming practices. There's enough of that going around, especially with regard to mothers. I just want to acknowledge that the worry that we sometimes experience when watching our teens go through stress is sometimes a problem. It makes us want to hold on to our teens more, because we know what's out there in life. I'm not sure that the holding on is thoroughly helping them.

I come across this everyday in my work with parents of adolescents. Their hopes, dreams and expectations don't all the time match up with their teens' experiences. Sometimes, our teens feel smothered by our expectations. Sometimes they are just crying out to be themselves, and longing to have us accept them for who they are. But we might say, we know who they are. We see so much potential in them and we don't want to see them squander that away. I know how that feels.

Today, I encourage you to listen to your teen, as I am taking heed to listen to my daughter. We can still hold on to our hopes and dreams for them. But, I think it is important to keep the worry at bay.

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