Reality Setting In
Teens - They are at the "in between worlds" age. They are old enough to start driving, going out
on dates, some are old enough to watch R-rated movies, and they all are definitely old enough to
have developed a distinct personal philosophy on life. Yet each of them is not quite old enough to
have acquired all the skills needed to successfully survive in the "real world", completely on their
The teenage years are a time of growing independence delicately intertwined with the unwanted
need for continued guidance by the adult members of their family. Hormones are constantly
readjusting, often causing tempers to flare without apparent rhyme or reason. It is not an easy
transition period for child or parent. Often verbal battles seem to be the only means of
communication between the two.
As the single parent of two biological sons (both teens now) and having been the foster mom of
dozens of foster care teens, I have dealt with numerous situations leading me to believe it would
have been easier to work at the United Nations. I say that with a contented smile as the satisfaction
I have derived from living with all these budding adults has honestly been very gratifying overall.
The single most important aspect I have found in dealing with the issues is memory. Yes, memory.
I still remember the many mistakes I made as a teen. I remember the foolish things I did (it's a
wonder I ever lived past my teenage years). I remember some of the gut-wrenching decisions I had
to make, not all of them correct ones. Those memories, some still fresh in my mind, are what allow
me to interact with dignity (well, most of the time) when it comes to dealing with
unpleasant issues and my teens. The things you may battle over with your children may be similar to the ones your
parents battled with when you were a teen. Far too often I have heard an adult emphatically state,
"I NEVER did anything like that when I was growing up!" How often I quietly wonder about the
amount of "selective memory loss" that person has been suffered from.
"Pick Your Battles", think what the outcome of the situation at hand will matter ten or twenty
years from now. Is it something that is not life-threatening and that should the wrong decision be
made by the teen, can they learn something from it? A sheltered life may be safe but it may also be
unproductive for the individual. What issues can be left to fate and what issues should be
addressed head on, both to prevent danger and maintain one's sanity? These are not easy
questions and there is not any single correct answer, anyone who tries to
convince you otherwise is not being completely honest with you. I have often advised people to go with their first gut feeling
or intuition. Not often is it wrong. Don't try to second-guess your lifetime of experiences, they are
stored in your memory bank for a reason. Your subconscious will draw from those memories to
present you with a "feeling" based on personal facts. Go with it and should you be hesitant, step
back (actually leaving the physical area where you and your ten may be arguing) to allow time for
a plan to formulate in your mind. If that fails there are great agencies and organizations willing to
offer their support and experiences to help you deal with difficult decisions.
One last note - I believe it has actually been easier to parent without a
"significant other" because there is not a second adult to disagree with my decision or, worse yet, undermine my authority. So,
all you single parents out there, when times are tough, hang in there, it does get better!!!
Check out your local school for parenting classes.
Call your Dept of Human Services for a list of support groups.
Check out the following sites for further information or do an engine search on "parenting teens"
for further information:
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