In our conversations with parents of teens, their greatest struggle is a sense of loss of influence. But, while teens are listening to other voices during this season (their friends, acquaintances on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, celebrities, parents of friends they see as “cool,” etc.), they are not necessarily cutting ties or rejecting their ideals. In fact, many times what may be perceived as a rejection is more a re-negotiation of their former parent-child relationship. Perhaps their teen isn’t saying is “I’m rejecting you.” Rather, he or she may be saying, “Hey, I’m almost grown up. It’s time to cut a new deal,” or “Give me some credit; I get it!” or “Come on, let me try and figure this out on my own!” Whether we’re talking about curfews or communication, relationships or jobs around the house, what we want to avoid is burning our bridges.
If this rings true for you, it’s a golden opportunity. If you recognize and react to this new reality with trust and they handle it well, you can build an even greater platform for parental influence and relationship in your teen’s life. This matured relationship can be a source of great benefit and pleasure to you both in the future.
Be encouraged. Statistics support the idea that, despite appearances to the contrary, parents are still the number one influencers in a young person’s life. The majority of teenagers report that they have values and general beliefs similar to their parents and consider their parents as being highly significant in their lives.
Here’s something we can guarantee: your children will make some not-so-great choices throughout their adolescent years, but they will also make some wonderful ones. They will stumble and make great strides. Sometimes, they’ll want you to pick them up, dust them off and set them straight again. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it on their own.
If you’re worried about the voices influencing your teen’s life, or if you’re struggling to get through to them on your own, try these exercises:
- Make a list of the five most influential people in your teen’s life. Are you happy with the list? Whom would you like to add? Is there anyone about whom you have concerns? Discuss these with your spouse or parenting partner. Come up with some strategies for ensuring there are strong, positive third party voices in your teen’s life.
- Ask your teen to identify the top five people he or she admires most and why. What are the common denominators? The people they admire can be an indicator of your child’s priorities and values. Do they align with your family’s?
If you have the benefit of a variety of positive, encouraging, and healthy voices in your child’s life (coaches, mentors, relatives, teachers), you’ll be able to approach the launch with a greater sense of peace. He or she will be all the more prepared for the real world, where we all have to sort the good voices from the bad. Hopefully, they’ll surround themselves with the good.
That’s all part of the journey on the road to adulthood. Just remember, no matter how tough the going gets, you are your child’s main influencer and they DO value what you think.
Parents, do you feel that you have a good line of communication with your teen? Have you had to take a more “hands off” approach lately (especially with those who have recently graduated high school)? What strategies have you used to cope? What have you learned from other parents?
About the author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.