The Art of Being There but Not Being There
So as with many spiritual endeavours in this life, parenting teenagers is no different . . . it is a paradox. Teenagers need to be disciplined? It seems to me that it is the parents who must first practice self-discipline. One of the most needed areas of self-discipline for parents is refraining from asking your teenage child too many questions. Asking too many questions sends a message to your teenager that they are not competent or capable of handling their own affairs. . . not the message any caring parent would want to send. It might seem simple, but refraining from asking too many questions (like more than two) can prove to be quite challenging!
You may begin to notice in your car pool that all the teen riders are silent until they get out of the car, the door slams and then immediate conversation begins. Many teenagers will head straight to their rooms when they come home and/or seem to stay in their bedrooms for hours. You might ask your teenager about their day and get little if no response. When you ask a few innocent, non-prying questions your teen could respond adamantly by saying to you ‘you ask too many questions’ . . . ouch! Of course, you want to help, guide, protect your adolescent . . .how can you do this if you do not know what is going on?
Less is more as is often said. The less questions you ask, the more information you will receive. So, when engaging with your teenager keep questions to a minimum. For example: ‘how was your day?’ or ‘did you have fun?’ or maybe just a statement ‘it is good to see you’ . . . .done, no more questions. You can follow up by ‘I’ll be around if you need me’. So here is the ‘the art of being there but not being there‘: you are available yet not insisting on talking to your teen or your teen talking with you. The simple phrase ‘I will be around if you need me’ sets the stage for your availability which is key in the Zen of parenting teens.
When your teenager does start talking about things that are going on in their world, your true test of self-discipline begins! Your job is to be completely present to listen with empathy and reflection minus judgement. The greatest gift we can give anyone, especially our children, is the gift of being heard and understood. With this type of emotional support from you, your teenager will be more capable to navigate their turbulent adolescent years. You will feel the magic of emotional connection when this gift is received by your teenager who is growing rapidly into adulthood. Those magic moments of connectedness with your teen may not happen as often as you would like but those moments will support your child for a life time.
Part II of The Zen of Parenting Teenagers will discuss the ‘how to’ of active listening and validation for your teenage child. For now, get your parenting Zen on!
“Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.” Don Miguel Ruiz
Helen H. Thomas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing E-Therapy @ http://www.etherapi.com/therapist/688/profile