As I look back over the years when I was raising my three grown children, I breathe a sigh of relief that they are well adjusted adults. By some miracle, all three of them are making wise choices in their relationships, personal choices and careers. They are also having children of their own! Over the years, I have been on a journey to make sense of their external behaviors—as I reach to develop internal maturity. My parenting journey has forced me to overcome deep feelings of inadequacy to discover workable answers for their growing needs and prepare them for take-off and me in letting go.
Failure to Launch: As parents, we need to be aware of areas where our teens are becoming overly dependent on us. They must gradually take and own more units of concern about successful outcomes than we do. Now is the time to fit them with their astronaut suit and train them for travel. Now is the time to be creative about appealing to their internal motivation through teachable moments—especially when they make mistakes. I encourage you to use your current situation to increase empathy and reflective listening to help inspire use of their skills, abilities and preferences. Remember, it is never too late learn from our mistakes. In some families, teens are asked to leave the home due to unresolvable conflict, irresponsibility or over-dependence. Preparing our children for blast-off can be mutually satisfactory when parents prepare to let go and young people have spent adequate time in the simulator. They feel released and equipped for their mission—10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1!
“Houston We Have a Problem”: If there is a problem in orbit, we can always count on others in the extended family or community who can intervene. These are identified and respected folks who know the difference between interfering and intervening. Help your teen establish new heroes at each stage of her life. Even famous people or those within your community can provide inspiration in different areas of strengths from your own. As parents we also need influential people who inspire us to go farther and speak word of encouragement.
Who can help you and your adolescent discover renewed inner strength to overcome what seems like insurmountable difficulties and fear? Working through the difficulties with vulnerability can bond you together and build a trusting relationship long after your young adult launches.
Successful Mood Walk. We want our children to leave for college, get married or get their own apartment equipped to survive but thrive. It is normal to doubt ourselves: “Have I taught her everything she needs to know about romantic relationships or finances?” Or “Have I done a good job in preparing him to successfully choose safety, a spouse or career?” Ask yourself, your spouse and your adolescent what is missing for them to be emotionally, financially, academically, spiritually, relationally, morally and physically ready to moonwalk. Now is the time to plan one-on-one time for reciprocal interaction with your teen without giving lectures or being judgemental.
Modeling the Mood Walk: Family is often confusing and disorganized because none of us is able to give the right response all of the time—that what humility and forgiveness is about. Modeling the right thing is the best way to impart it to your teen/adolescent. If we want respect in the relationship—we treat our teen as if they had arrived at the higher level of our expectation. If we expect moral behavior then . . . etc. Don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong, apologize or tell your teen you want to learn how to be what they need. Parenting is about relationship.
It is comforting to know that our young adult children continue watch how we face our fears, and overcome challenges. If you find yourself becoming overly concerned about preparing your teen or adolescent for leaving home—imagine how your life will be enriched in your next season possible as an in-law or grandparent! It may help to focus your thoughts and feelings on how your child will need you in a whole new way as they boldly travel to new frontiers in their universe.
Beth Holloway, MA, LPCA is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has recently joined the Miller Counseling Services team and specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading group therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Couples and Parent/Child Relationships, Grief Processing and Depression Recovery. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries and has been enriched by learning about people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups.
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