Guiding Principles for Your Teen
Today's teens face overwhelming issues – peer pressure, widespread instances of substance abuse, concerns about sexuality, the academic stress of high school, the risks and freedom of driving and the worry about getting into a good college. It's no wonder that these years often become filled with poor decision making and such a beleaguered battleground between parents and teens.
The 10 guiding principles below enable teens to develop an internal framework and moral compass to stay centered during these turbulent years.
Principle 1: Realize You Are Part of Something Bigger
A connection with spirituality sustains teenagers throughout their inherently rocky transition into adulthood. A spirited life is much more than just decisions about faith. Kids want and need to define their own sense of spirituality. Parents can join their teens in this exploration process, as their children quest for an understanding of the universe and an individual sense of spirituality.
Principle 2: Understand That All Life Is Connected and Has Meaning
Adolescents need opportunities to recognize that they are not alone – no matter how different from their peers they may feel. Teens hunger to be a part of something. Their need for acceptance runs deep. Support your teens in developing a deeper connection with the natural world, as nature unconditionally accepts them. Plus, social activism and reaching out to others in need gives teens the same assurance that they are connected and can make a difference.
Principle 3: Words Can Profoundly Change Lives
Tell your teenagers how they delight you, how much you respect their choices, your amazement at their abilities or your appreciation of the way they solved a problem. We need to remember that teens typically struggle with a low self-image at the same time that their need for love and acceptance is at an all-time high. Now is the time to flood them with positive words. Loving words from a parent fuel a child, no matter their age. Your positive, authentic words can be the grace that salves their fragile egos.
Principle 4: Listen Fully – Acknowledge Deeply
In a 2004 survey by Spiritualparenting.com, teens were asked: "What do you wish your parents did differently?" The overwhelming response was unexpected. They didn't want more freedom, a later curfew or another gadget. Instead, teens wished their parents actually listened to them more often. A typical response was: "I would love it if my mom was around more often to hear what was going on in my life. We rarely catch up." Teens simply want to be heard and respected.
Principle 5: Supported Dreams Manifest Miracles
By helping teens nurture their internal vision of who they are, we may be able to spare them years spent pursuing goals far astray from their personal dreams. We can help them find an authentic sense of purpose in the world: something that comes from connecting the deep currents in their hearts with the abilities of their hands and minds. When parents help kids identify what brings meaning to their daily activities, it's the answer to the fundamental spiritual question "Why am I here?"
Principle 6: Awaken Wonder and Spirit Flows
Teens crave magic: that moment when time stands still and we're drawn outside our usual busy selves to find something rich and peaceful. Experiences and perceptions that go beyond the ordinary soothe a soulful yearning. But in the teen years, wide-eyed wonder isn't "cool." Teens have to learn how to silence their ever present internal critic in order to experience being fully present in an experience. It's hard to be in awe if you're worried about how your hair looks.
Principle 7: Remain Flexibly Firm
Parents have to be willing to shift the rules and become more flexible so their kids can mature into their fully-realized selves. By the time children reach their teen years, parents have gotten complacent about setting rules and creating family guidelines. The revisiting of these parameters provides important perceptions of safety and predictability so teens can function freely.
Principle 8: Be What You Want to See
Teenage Research Unlimited found that 70 percent of teenagers name their mom or dad as the person they most admire. Parents need to realize that who we are is much more important than what we say during these years. Teens, while unwilling to listen to our words of wisdom, learn volumes from observing us, even when we think they're not paying the remotest attention.
Principle 9: Let Go and Trust
Everyone hits rough patches in parenting, and they can occur almost daily during adolescence. But it is critical during these most trying of times to release our own feelings of shame, guilt, frustration and pain and remember that we are in spiritual partnership with our teenagers. By letting go of the feelings of struggle, we can strengthen ourselves in the peace of trust. Trust, while still keeping a watchful eye.
Principle 10: Each Day Offers a Possibility of Renewal
Beginning anew means making small changes in the right direction, rather than quantum leaps toward a perfect relationship. It is truly the small day-to-day stuff that can shift a tense relationship with your teen: one thoughtful compliment a day, replacing irritation with understanding or suggesting options rather than insisting upon specific solutions. Just when you've been counting the months until they leave the nest, suddenly a whole new direction takes root and you can enjoy your precious and rebellious teen.