Life On the Other Side

The Struggle to Accept That Your Teen Is Not Like You

Our children are in some very ways very like us and in others very different. The tween and teen years may be difficult for parents; in witnessing theirs, our own memories may resurface. We may want to spare our children that awkward stage, when we said and did all the wrong things when trying to make friends. Or we may expect them to follow in our footsteps and be the leaders.

Teenagers have a way of bringing us back in time. They remind us of who we once were and who we wanted to be. Each generation has its coming of age movie, where it is apparent that social status is important. There have been numerous television shows dedicated to the awkwardness of the teen years and the angst that goes along with them. As parents, it can be tough to relive these moments. Some want their children to have a similar experience, other want something different for their kids. Parents also struggle with the fact that their influence is somewhat reduced as peers become more important and parents are seen as being out of touch and old.

The lure of popularity is likely at its strongest during the teen years. Likewise, the pressure exerted by peers to fit in tends to subside as we enter adulthood. Hormonal changes instill the urge to show off and take chances. Relationships are to a degree forced. The pool from which we choose friends is based largely on where we live and how old we are. More significance is given to things such as intelligence and social standing. Years later, much of this no longer matters and from a more mature standpoint even seems a little silly, yet this period of time is one that sticks in our memories.

Odds are, you remember your high school years. Maybe you have fond memories; maybe it was one of the worst periods of your life. Either way, how you see these years influences your expectations of how your child will act and think.

Maybe you were the head cheerleader or the captain of the football team. Maybe both you and your spouse attended the same college and you assume that your children will want to do the same. Perhaps you were active in Greek life in college and look forward to your child being a “legacy.” Maybe you took a different path and said and did things you don’t want to admit to, never mind share with your kids.

It is true that we are influenced by our past. Most of tend to mimic much of what our parents did when we were young. When we get to the teen years however, sometimes we parent the way we wish they had, or the way we think our parents should have.  No matter which approach we use, most of us struggle to find a balance and wonder: How much freedom should we give them?

Walking the line, this is their time. I remember my teen years and have shared some of my stories with them, but I try to be sensitive to the fact that they are not me. I don’t want them to think they have to be like me. But in many ways, they already are.

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