School's Out: How Can Parents' Support Teens During Times of Change?
Summer term has ended in schools. Our young people have probably worked hard to harness great exam results with view to attending a 6th form or university life. Our younger adolescents, those who are 11, are about to embark on secondary school. Perhaps you were scared at the time?
These endings are challenging for parents/carers and our young people. For parents, it could include feelings of being trapped, being good enough, spending, spending and spending again on new clothes, new school uniforms and shoes, holiday activities – anything to set you free so you can continue to work, socialise, earn money and not lose precious “me time”. For adolescents, it's a time of anxiety – where next? Will I find my way around at university, make friends, keep up with the reading list, the lectures, the going out followed by questions of will university and secondary school mates like me? Will I fit in – somewhere, anywhere! What if I hate it – being away from home, my other friends – how will I get noticed and cared for?
From experience, parents/carers try super-hard to make their own and their children's lives perfect. It's pressurising; I suggest being and existing knowing that you're good enough. The roles we play are rooted in childhood and parental expectations.
When expectations are high, usually from your own parents (aka your children's grandparents), how about looking at your child and imagining the new born child you held in your arms? Consider the lengths, self-care and delivery you took to get to that moment. Now imagine seeing your new born child, perfect and imperfect in every way possible, in an emerging adult body.
As an adolescent, and probably your parent/carer too, hear the youngest part of yourself. What do you need? Usually children say “I'm bored – there's nothing to do”. You suggest a good book, take the dogs for a walk, make dinner, do more homework – prepare for your next exam. What they're really asking is “Please, spend time with me – notice I exist, after all you made me!” Hear the anger in that phrase – mostly though, notice the loss of you and therefore their pain.
In the countryside earlier I notice a wasp exploring a pile of dog poo. So here's the metaphor: what was it that attracted wasp to poo? How is it not getting its needs met? Am I looking to explore the crap? Am I part of the crap? Am I the problem? We often inherit, based on our childhood and adolescenthood, others' perceptions of who we should be and could be. And so we play the game of wanting to measure up – be the perfectionist.
This is acted out, rolling of the eyes is typical and so another adult has become the hard workaholic, the perfectionist, the door mat, the magician and sadly, the person who is better isolated due to shame, anger, sadness, guilt, a people pleaser, an outcast, the person being bullied because of their difference and never quite being good enough. Oh the roles a person can play to be accepted...
Our children are our ultimate investment in our selves, our children, our communities and the world. Perhaps you would like to invest in yourself, your future happiness, a sense of intimacy and connectedness. Parents and adolescents – you don't have to do this on your own. A professional counsellor or therapist can enable you a happier and more connected existence.
Wishing you all a good enough and mostly happy, summer holiday.