New job description for parents of teens

 In Opinion

Do you ever wish that you had a job description that told you exactly what you are supposed to do with your teenager?
Well good news folks – it is here! Most job descriptions start with a brief description of the general purpose of the position, followed by the duties and responsibilities. However, in this case, since there has been so much confusion about what the parent of a teen is supposed to do, we are going to start with a review of what you might have thought your job was. Version 1.0 is as follows.
Purpose of job: To make teen happy and ensure that they succeed.
Duties and responsibilities:
• Keeping your teen organized (AKA being their frontal lobe);
• Worrying on behalf of your teen so that they don’t have to;
• Snowplowing the path in front of your teen;
• Being a receptacle for &%$# your teen needs to unload;
• Providing rescue services for when your teen gets themselves in trouble;
• Alleviating or fixing any problems that may result in emotional upset and/or discomfort for your teen;
• Lecturing your teen on the mistakes that you made so that they won’t have to repeat those mistakes.
In considering the revisions for Version 1.0 we felt that it included way too many volunteer hours and add-on services for your teen. The hours spent driving them when they miss the bus, negotiating with teachers, keeping their calendars updated, and “helping” them with their projects seemed like all too much. Not to mention the energy drain of sitting beside them on their emotional rollercoaster to ensure that they don’t fall off the track. In the interests of your sanity and their maturity we decided to cut out all of the above tasks from your job description. The new streamlined Parenting Teens Job Description version 2.0 is as follows.
Purpose of job: To support the social, emotional, and psychological growth of your teen so that they can learn to handle the challenges life will present to them.
Duties and responsibilities:
• Role model the behavior and attitudes you want to see growing in your teen;
• Set boundaries for yourself and your teen based on your values;
• Set limits for your teen that fit the level of responsibility they are demonstrating;
• See your child for who they are and not who you expect them to be;
• Provide guidance and mentoring by listening and offering ideas that respect your teen’s autonomy;
• Help them find their own solutions to their problems by listening (again!) and being curious – without judgement;
• Manage your own emotions so that your teen can learn to regulate theirs;
• Let go of trying to control the outcome and hold your teen accountable instead.
You might notice that most of these items involve making changes that would benefit you in many other areas of your life. This is your bonus gift for taking on the task of raising a teenager.
In all seriousness, it is not easy to shift the way we parent, particularly when our teen is struggling. Your new job description will create discomfort for you and your teen as you shift the emphasis from making them happy to allowing them to fail, experience the consequences of their choices, and discover their capability. The growth that will come from this for both you and your teen will last a lifetime, and that seems well worth it.

Liz van Ryn, M.Sc. is a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice at www.creeksidetherapy.ca.

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