“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.”
~Frank A. Clark
Recently, my teenage daughter went on a study trip from school with a huge bunch of students and a few accompanying teachers. The excitement of spending four days and nights with their best buddies was pulsating from the minute they all had gathered at the airport. It was gratifying to see their delight as I bid her goodbye, albeit with a sigh of sadness that she is not going to be home for the next few days.
Amongst the rules of this trip was one where no cell phones were allowed. Such a relief it was to know that they will be able to focus completely on their studies, serving the real purpose of the tour.It would be assuring for parents as kids will have no screen distractions and not be bothered by innumerable calls and messages. Well, that’s what I thought. But what ensued instead was an incessant flow of queries and comments on our messaging group. Messages that reflected a constant sense of worry and anxiety about their girls… ‘Flight delayed, poor kids will be uncomfortable; have they eaten anything; they will miss out on sight-seeing; is it too cold;hotel lines are forever busy; cell phones should have been allowed; they are eating dinner so late; they have to wake up so early…’
Now I am not being critical or judgemental here – after all, we are together on this journey of motherhood.
But I wondered…I’m not so worried, does it make me a carefree mom? I’m not even guilty of the space she and me both will enjoy from each other. Does that make me a heartless mom? Does parenting mean attachment? Does maternal love entails being possessive about the children? Do we always need to be in control of our kids? I have two teenagers whom I have practically raised on my own and surely learnt many lessons along the way. Pertaining to this context, here are a few points I feel compelled to highlight from my own experience:
- We need to keep our cool– Teenage is a tough period to tread through for mothers as well as for children. It’s that phase of high surge in hormones in their bodies and changes in their brains. There are bound to be outbursts of uncontrollable feelings as they learn to cope with all the changes in their lives. It becomes imperative for mothers to keep their cool especially during stormy moments. We have to remind ourselves that we are the parent and it is crucial to display that maturity. Being calm and controlled, and not reactive, is the key.
- Teenagers require their own space– It is hard for us moms to stay away from our children completely. Especially being a single mom, it is very hard for me to keep a distance or stay disconnected. We want to be around and do everything to raise them well. But it is essential for us to recognise that teenagers do require their own space – physical, emotional and mental, to become self-directed adults. They need their space to exercise their choices. They need the space to make their own decisions and face the subsequent consequences. They require the distance from us to grow. That is how they will learn to survive and thrive. We owe them that space and respect it too.
- Balance between monitoring & privacy – Teenagers are discovering themselves and constantly learning to deal with the adult world. Their brains are still growing, surely we ought to guide them as they learn to sail through life. On the other side, they are also growing to be adults who need their privacy. It is crucial to define the boundaries on secrecy based on mutual trust and respect. They need us to trust them and respect them for who they are. Maintain a balance between when we need to supervise and when to let them be.
- Our anxiety rubs on to them- It is natural for moms to be concerned and worried about everything related to our children. They will always be a part of us outside of our bodies. However, the key to healthy parenting is to keep our anxieties at bay as it rubs on to our kids. The way we react to situations and to our kids sets a conditioning pattern in their minds. They begin to operate at the same level of anxiety as we model for them. Instead, let us display coping mechanisms to deal with our anxieties and together learn ways to manage stress.
- We need nurturing too- It is commonly said that we moms need to put on our oxygen masks first before we put them on for our kids. It is so important to fill ourselves first in order to give to our families. Our teenagers will soon fly out of the nest we have so beautifully built. What are we going to do then? Where are we going to focus our precious time and energy? We need not orbit our entire lives around the kids. Instead, lets find time to do things we enjoy, ways to evolve and have our own independent identities. For our own sake as well as for our kids’ sake.
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