Those that have seen the movie “The Croods” (2013), which was set in prehistoric times, might remember family patriarch Grug Crood’s life mantra: “Never not be afraid!” And while that may seem like a hefty exaggeration, it really resonates with parents of teens today!
While parents of teens might not necessarily fear for their lives on a tangible level in terms of staving off prehistoric predators, parents in 2021 are constantly inundated with new information that — even when inaccurate — spreads faster than hot gossip on Snapchat.
The real-world events of today such as tragic random mass shootings, a pandemic, accidental drug overdoses, bullying, and child suicide are just a few of the most common topics that have parents truly pondering how they are going to get their kids out of childhood alive. But while these concerns are real and valid, allowing fears to run wild — so teenagers don’t — isn’t the answer to keeping teens safe. Instead of letting fear take the wheel, there are three easy perspective shifts parents can make to help them navigate the murky waters of parenting teens.
Give Up Control — Ouch, this is a tough one. Parents are constantly trying to make sure that nothing bad happens to their precious babies — and themselves and the world at large — and in doing so sometimes end up creating self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead of operating on high alert in a fear-based frenzy at all times, parents should focus their thoughts away from those problems and crises. This shift then allows space for listening, faith and trust through a new perspective. It’s key for parents to understand that kids have a natural instinct, like all humans, to survive, thrive and self-actualize. It’s not the parents’ job to supply their teens’ with willpower or a moral compass. Instead, they can model these characteristics. Then it’s up to the teens to choose to follow suit or not, but that is the job of the teen, not the parent.
Don’t Play the Blame Game — Any parent whose child has ever been affected by trauma or tragedy will most likely claim fault. Even if they intellectually know it wasn’t their fault, many parents will blame themselves if only in their minds. Parents tend to ruminate over what they could have done differently to avoid that outcome. However, regardless of the endless questions, there is no resolution. While the “blame game” is a default for some parents, blame doesn’t even have to be part of the equation.
Instead of taking (or placing) blame, it’s time to accept that teens are personally responsible for their actions and when they are victimized, they are responsible for their own recovery and healing. Parents simply cannot “be” their recovery and they can’t heal for them. It’s the parents’ role to love their teens, and themselves, without judgment and conditions.
Stop Expecting a Movie Script-Worthy Ending — Unlike the Croods (who got a sequel in 2020), in real life, the outcomes are unpredictable. No matter how much parents may wish they could know the ending, what is leading to what and who is going to live or die or fail then prosper, that’s just not possible. Parents can no more easily assume that the vaping, stick-and-poke tattoo artist is going to end up aimless and jobless as they can assume that the 4.5 GPA star athlete will end up truly happy and fulfilled. Life doesn’t work like that and it’s unrealistic to expect a “fairy tale” ending.
But the good news is real life is even better than the movie script… even if everything doesn’t wrap up in a pretty little bow. Parents need to put a little trust and faith into their children and believe that their path will lead them to exactly where they are meant to be in life.
The greatest thing a parent can do is play the supporting role in their teen’s life… and let the teen be the star of the show. After all, it’s their life. And even if it doesn’t end up exactly like the parents imagined it, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a beautiful story.
Written by: Vanessa Baker, Founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset
Vanessa Baker is a performance coach for Growth.com, the world’s leading coaching company. He is a teen-parenting coach, founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset, mother of six children, and new author of her first book From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.