This guest post is written by Connie Albers of ConnieAlbers.com.
Parenting is tough. No matter how you slice it.
It seems like you’re always juggling ever-changing schedules, adjusting to new seasons right after you mastered the one you’re in, and then you throw raising a young adult into the mix of craziness.
Parenting is especially tough when your child throws up the “you don’t understand me” card. How do you transition from raising a child to mentoring a young adult? Here are 5 things that can help in this transition:
- Definition – There is a difference between a child and an adult. 1 Corinthians 13:11 recognizes this difference and talks about the coming of age and putting away childish things. One word is missing from that verse though: teenager. Wonder why your young person wants to be treated like an adult so badly? Frustration comes in when a young person, who is trying to be an adult, feels like he/she is constantly being treated like a child. More than their shirt size is changing. They are starting to look at you and the world differently, and they want a chance for you to look at them differently as well. Your young people might be struggling as they are asked to fit into a definition that they grew out of a while ago.
- Guided Autonomy – Young people want a chance to make decisions on their own and develop a sense of authority. This is perfectly normal and healthy. It should be encouraged and coached so that they can have a strong sense of independence when they leave your home. Children depend on their parents for everything. Young people want an opportunity to exercise their autonomy so they don’t get unleashed into a world with a defeated and dependent mindset. How can they ever have a sense of “well done,” if their parents do everything for them and not allow them to make a decision, fail, learn from it, and move on?
- Understanding – A three-year-old doesn’t need their parents to “understand” them. They do something, laugh, get disciplined if necessary, and go on with life. The complications of young person’s life aren’t that easy. Parents don’t need to fully understand the details of every situation. However, if you sit down with your young adult, hear them out, and genuinely tell them you understand where they are coming from, you just gained tremendous parent points. You don’t have to approve of their decisions, but the basic emotions of fear, peer-pressure, anger, love, etc. are emotions we all share. When you take it a step further and tell them about a similar situation when you grew up, they feel like they can actually relate to you (an adult) and that you understand them. This takes more time and effort than disciplining and moving on, but the rewards are immeasurable.
- Love – Parents love their children, but sometimes children feel like other siblings are loved more than they are. Take a minute to familiarize yourselves with the different love languages. Every person is created differently. If you are displaying the same type of love to all your children, some may willingly receive it while others could even resent it. All little kids love attention, sweets, and personal time with someone. Adults on the other hand, really thrive when encouraged with specific displays of affection. Learning your young person’s love language will make for a more effortless transition into adulthood. It also opens up communication as trust and friendship are built on a foundation they readily embrace.
- Respect – Young people know they are wrong and make mistakes. They are willing to be corrected and work through ugly situations with help and guidance. This is where “being treated like a child” usually comes in. You don’t reason with a two-year-old. You raise your voice to get their attention, take quick action, issue a punishment, and fix the problem. When the same reaction comes out to a teenager, they usually get frustrated and resent the punishment. Sometimes they even repeat the mistake since the coaching wasn’t there in the beginning. Speaking with many young people, they are willing to sit down with their parents and have a conversation about what happened. “What did you learn,” and, “How will this be avoided next time,” are so much more empowering than, “What?! Go to your room and give me your phone!” This gives them the opportunity to exercise their critical thinking skills and learn from their mistakes.
Taking the frustration out before it has time to materialize not only brings healing to already sore areas, but it also gives you a firmer foundation to build a strong and lasting relationship.
If some of your children have already left the nest, it’s not too late to start bridging the gap and rebuilding or repairing the relationship.
Not all situations and families are the same. But there are some foundational issues that are common for all young people. Your children really do want a relationship with you; but sometimes they just don’t know how to express it.
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