How to be the parent you want to be

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At a recent workshop, I heard parents worrying about how their teens will be in the future and how the parents thought they needed to act now to divert their teens from disaster.

These parents were very concerned about their teens’ behavior and were willing to ignore their relationship for the sake of changing their teens’ behavior.

After some time talking about slow parenting, the parents started to chuckle at themselves. And they started focusing instead on their relationships and how to build safe and fun ones.

I hope they can keep that focus during the stressful holiday season when social and family gatherings cause parents to get a bit wound up about how their teens’ act and look.

How can you be the parent you most want to be during the busy holiday season?

When I was looking for a way to help me be the parent I most want to be during the holidays, I remembered the phrase, “Be here now.”

How perfectly simple.  The parent I most want to be is present for my teens, aware of how they are and how I might support them, curious about who they are today, ready to listen to them, and working to improve our relationship right now.  Sounds like the five attitudes of slow parenting to me!

“Be here now” reminds me that the relationship I have with my teen is the one I have at this moment.  I can’t rest on yesterday’s laurels or get by with promises for tomorrow. Our relationship is today.

So when I tell my teen that we are having a little party for close family friends and he reacts by saying, “Oh that sounds awful,” I have to remember to not take him personally.

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If I don’t want to hurt our relationship, I have to postpone my first, irritated reaction by walking through the attitudes. Instead of railing on him, I need to be in this moment and assess.

Oh yeah, he has some very stressful items on his plate, and he doesn’t want one more thing to do. And yes, he is totally self-absorbed at this moment, and no, I didn’t listen to why he thinks the party will be awful.

I decided to listen, to assure him that all he had to do was eat and play board games, and that I would totally understand if he left to go see friends.  Fight averted, hurt feelings avoided, and more acceptance from both sides.

“Be here now” may not be what others think you should do, and it may set you up for criticism from family members.  Please remember that they are not part of your relationship with your teens.

Your relationship and how you choose to be with your teen is between you and your teen, only. If your in-laws think you should make your daughter wear different clothes or that your son should wear a tie, you can politely decline to take that on.

They have their own relationships with your teen, and you don’t need to get in the middle of that, either.

During the holidays, it is easy to get sucked in by images of how things should be. You can be tempted to just put your foot down about some event or behavior for the sake of the holidays. “Be here now” is a reminder to enjoy our own unique family moments whatever they look like and whenever they happen. You can continue to build a safe , fun and respectful relationship, even during the holidays.

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