The prevailing message about parenting teenagers is that it’s a wholly unpleasant nightmare, that teens are unbearable hell-beasts and everybody hates them. Our whole culture seems to loathe teenagers which is quite sad really. Right when they need us the most, we disown them. It is the nature and purpose of adolescence to create independent beings and understandably parents find that painful, however surely it’s something that we acknowledged to ourselves from the moment they were born!?
There really isn’t much information out there on attachment parenting teens but by the time you have a teenager you should have a good grasp of healthy attachment. One of the most helpful tools the parent of a teenager can possess is a good understanding of how their brains are developing during puberty and adolescence.
Once you know all about the things that are happening in their bodies and brains you can’t help but feel sympathetic. It really is a roller coaster ride, they don’t just want to destroy everything you hold dear, they want to create their own lives. Becoming an adult is significant work! Unfortunately a part of teenage-hood is overestimating your capabilities and underestimating danger. Knowing how their physical and emotional development will alter them is vital to attachment parenting teens.
As attachment parents we spend infancy and childhood modelling adult behaviour (intentionally or not) and somehow that goes out the window as soon as the hormones set in. Obviously it’s hard to see your baby taking the sorts of risks teens take, but that doesn’t mean that we should address it in ways we wouldn’t with younger children. In fact of all the times that modelling healthy, thoughtful behaviour is most critical, it is when we are dealing with teens.
When they are least deserving of our love, empathy and respect is when they most need it. It’s paramount to attachment parenting teens, because without a good attachment they are alone in a world that is sometimes cruel, and often misleading.
If we have used control in the form of anger and manipulation you can guarantee it will lose its impact by the time they are teenagers. You can not physically control a teenager. They are big enough to climb out their window at night, they are extremely clever when it comes to using technology, and not only is physical violence illegal but they KNOW it and they aren’t afraid to stretch their legal muscles. By the time they are teenagers you should have created as much open communication as possible. Without communication you don’t have much hope. Sure they will probably survive to adulthood, but you’re going to find it pretty horrible as they rebel against restrictive and arbitrary rules without open lines of communication.
The thing is that the way teenagers communicate with their parents alters drastically. Teens begin living private lives, it’s a part of maturing. It’s not a rejection of you, although it can feel like it is. Of course therein lie many of the problems. Private lives include sex and drugs and no end of other parental nightmares.
The odds are good that they will mess up a few times between thirteen and twenty. The question is whether they will come to YOU for help, or whether they will be out of their depth and completely alone. Knowing they can always come to you for non judgemental support is what will keep them afloat and possibly even alive.
Teenagers will be influenced more and more by their peers and less and less by you. And whilst you discussed condoms (or you SHOULD have!) it’s extremely common for other parents to avoid it altogether. The same goes for drugs. Studies show that teens whose parents didn’t discuss sex and drugs are far more likely to engage in risk taking behaviour. Your teen will be mixing with teens who have learnt everything on the job, you want yours to be more informed. Information isn’t a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination but it does give them more of an edge.
There is a lot of emphasis on trusting children and whilst that’s a nice message, when they are teenagers we need to be wary not to substitute their judgment for our own. Listen to your instincts and act accordingly, just as you did with your newborn. Teenagers can be challenging yes, but they can also be delightful. The moral of the story here is to start out as you mean to continue. Be kind, thoughtful, helpful, open, and empathetic with your young children, and be GOOD at being all of those things before you acquire a teenager. Attachment parenting teens is wholly doable! It’s not a guarantee that they won’t go off the rails, but it’s certainly an insurance policy that you shouldn’t go without.
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