Shortly after my first son was born, I had a conversation with my father. I was feeling guilty about having to leave my 8 week old infant son with a babysitter. At the time, my father took me aside. He told me that while this may be a trying time. It is a time when other people can easily help and take care of your child’s physical needs. However, he said a more critical time when your child will need you is during the teen years. At the time, I didn’t believe him. It seems contrary to the message that society sends about children being more self-sufficient and mothers going back to work when their children start school. However, now that my third child is a teenager. I know that he is right. Teenagers may not need you physically but they need you emotionally.
The first moment I realized that I had a teenager didn’t come when my child blew out the candles on his thirteenth birthday. It came when my child was in the 5th grade at age 10. He came home upset because there was a group of kids going around asking a question dealing with adult subject matter. I realized we had come to the time of parenting that is truly hard, “the teen years”. The time when I had to take the time to teach my child lessons that he would truly use for a lifetime. I had to take the time to listen and resist the urge to jump in and fix things.
This moment in time was the first of many teachable moments. Moments in time that caught me off guard and made me pause to deal with the situation. It would be so much easier to just tell him what to do but I had to take the time out to explain the details. These are the moments that truly prepared my son to go out on his own. I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts that you can give a teen is the tools to be independent.
Was there a moment when you realized you were the parent of a teenager? I’d love to hear your story. Make a comment and let me know.
Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens. Pathways 4 Teens provides educational services for tweens, teens, and parents that help teens define success while keeping parents engaged in the process. Check out our current event schedule at http://www.pathways4teens.com