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Have some respect for teens

As a newly-trained life and family coach I was moved (and impressed) by a recent Letter to the Editor with the heading of ‘Tired of adults putting young people down’. I think it’s true that the proverbial ‘generation gap’ seems most tangible between parents or adults and teens and I would like to have a hand in changing that.

To many adults, parenting and/or interacting with teens doesn’t often feel like fun; we can’t control them like we can a little child and this triggers our resistance. After all, our sense of authority feels like it is under attack. Would you say that you have respect for your teen? Some adults just bristle at the thought of ‘respecting’ their children. It may have something to do with religion or the many clichés they were brought up with like “children should be seen and not heard” or “do as I say, not as I do” or how about “I’ll treat you like an adult when you start acting like an adult”. Knowing that ‘respect’ means positive regard and consideration, I think many might agree that they do respect them, in which case it’s just a matter of putting it into action.

A simple test: when asked “what do you think when you hear the word ‘teenager?’” most parents/adults will reel off a litany of descriptive words that immediately come to mind, few of which are positive. Lazy, disrespectful, rude, ungrateful, selfish. Were those on your list too? It is perfectly understandable that holding those images of teens might lead to our regarding them and treating them in a way that feels to them as if they are being put down.

The teen years are challenging because it is a transitional time — for both the teen and the parent. Teenagers don’t need the same things from parents and adults that younger children do: they need our guidance, our understanding, appreciation and support as they move toward independence. This simple misunderstanding accounts for much of the frustration felt by both parties.

One of the fundamental goals with my family coaching is to assist parents to strengthen their connections to their teenagers. When a parent realises that adapting their parenting style can mean a better relationship with their teen and some emotional and physical space for them, they will see that everyone is happier and there will be more energy available to help the teen to take on a greater role in their own life and within the family and community. While geared toward the parent/s of teenagers, the philosophical tenets that underpin the ‘Parent-as-Coach’ model that I work with, are relevant to any adult/teen relationship, be it in the family, in the neighbourhood or in the greater community.

It might be that we aren’t always conscious that the goal of parenting is to raise independent adults and it might be worth considering that “raising children” actually is a faulty phrase. Aren’t we really “raising adults”?

And so I take my hat off to the writer of that Letter to the Editor for making the effort to reach out to the adults in the community and for providing an invitation for dialogue to close that generation gap, in families, schools, churches — anywhere really — all across Bermuda.

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Published May 02, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 01, 2013 at 6:07 pm)

Have some respect for teens

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