You can listen to the people who tell you teens can't be trusted, or you can listen to two expert moms who don't want you to waste a single minute disliking your teenager. If the latter sounds good to you -- this is your book!
Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids
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marti AT slowparentingteens DOT com
molly AT slowparentingteens DOT com
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As the CEO of Envision Possibilities and the mom of twins I was delighted to read this book now before entering the teen years. The authors have put together a masterpiece that truly teaches you as a parent not to fear the teen years. I especially enjoyed the chapter on how listening is effective, because I work with busy moms who want to take their life back I will use this as a resource for those moms who have teenagers to help them navigate the parenting waters.
Dixie Andrade - the Mom Coach
Think you know your teen? Don’t let appearances fool you…
There are stories trending right now on parenting sites from parents whose teen committed suicide, or has been arrested on assault charges, or is demonstrating serious addiction issues. As a therapist I hear stories often from parents about eating disorders, sexual acting out, depression, cutting, and illegal behaviors. The really scary part is when parents didn’t see it coming and only knew their teen was in trouble long after the teen was in serious trouble.
One courageous mom has recently spoken up and shared that it was only after her daughter’s suicide when she read through texts and talked with her daughter’s friends that she realized she didn’t really know her daughter. How is it possible that as a concerned loving parent we can be so out of touch with our teen?
My own story (Marti) as a teenager might help shed some light. I was an honors student at a private school, very involved in choir and theater, and on the dance team as well. I was also ditching school regularly to be with my boyfriend and well into my addiction to drugs and alcohol. How did my mother not know?
Well, I was an honors student, active, popular, involved, polite, rarely in trouble, and quite autonomous. On the outside I looked great, every parent’s dream. I also knew what it was my mother paid attention to. She placed a great deal of importance on grades, check. She supported my after school involvement, check. She valued manners and treating adults with respect, check. And she insisted on communication about my whereabouts (that meant leaving notes since this was way before cell phones), check. I did everything that mattered to her and that made it easy for her to overlook the signs.
I just seemed so self sufficient, so put together that the adults in my life overlooked my mood swings, excuses, when I did get caught off campus or drinking at the football game, or late assignments. It is amazing what a polite respectful teenager who gets good grades can get away with.
Honestly, looking back it was a persona I put on for the adults. My peers knew I was the one who always had the drugs and who was ready to ditch and party at the drop of the hat. They knew when I went through a pregnancy scare, was talking about killing myself after a fight with my guy, and cheated on the test so I wouldn’t fail. They knew I was in serious trouble when I was 16 years old. I was a high functioning mess up until the day I got clean and sober and if any adults in authority knew or suspected, they sure didn’t speak out.
Your teenagers aren’t stupid, if they don’t want you to know something then you probably won’t. They know what you value (grades, sports, manners, checking in, being on time) and how to give you just enough so you don’t look very closely.
So what’s a parent to do?
First, Parent Everyday! Be in your teen’s life, know their friends, invite your teen to be in your life, and do not be blinded by how your teenager looks on the outside. Check in, sit down on the bed, smell them during the hug when they come home at night, have a conversation and listen for slurred words, even insist on a more lengthy interaction (coffee date, dinner, etc) once a week.
Second, Ask! I’m an adolescent therapist which means I often see the kids for only an hour a week. I don’t get to witness daily behavior or evaluate their interactions with peers. I don’t get to communicate daily or check in before bed. And yet, I often know way more about a teen’s behavior and choices and struggles than the parents. Why? Because I ask.
I am rarely fooled by appearances and I don’t let fear stop me from asking. I also do not judge (did you read the part about my teenage years) and as soon as the kid realizes that the details come pouring out. I listen, I’m curious, and I catch the teen doing lots right even in the middle of the scary stuff. I slow parent even as I am counseling because it works!
Here are your take aways: Don’t let appearances fool you; Ask directly about everything; Parent Everyday, and do your best to Listen Without Judgment. And to do all that successfully you will have to know, own, and address your fears both Noble and Selfish.
Pretending your teenager is fine doesn’t mean your teenager IS fine. Don’t let your fears keep you from asking.