Parenting is the hardest thing you'll ever do in life. As your children grow, they will confront situations you don't want them to but that are necessary for their growth and development.
Here are 6 thoughts you will likely have as your teen enters the "real world."
1. "Friends are going to ruin her confidence."
My 12-year-old daughter came home one day and said her friends told her she has a unibrow and the gap between her two front teeth made her look like a beaver. This broke my heart because she has never thought about her eyebrows before and she loves her gap. Immediately, I thought how this would affect her views of herself and her confidence later on.
As much as I wanted to call the parents of my daughter's friends, I felt this was a good opportunity to teach her how to handle criticism. I reminded her how much she loves her gap because it makes her who she is (something she has said before). I didn't just tell her this, though; I asked questions so she came to this conclusion herself. We discussed how some people will say anything to get another person upset, but if you remain calm, those people will move on to someone who will give them the reaction they are seeking. We discussed how there will always be people in life who will criticize others, but instead of shooting criticisms back, it's often better to let them know what they've said was hurtful and to always stand up for yourself.
2. "Will my son say no to sex, drugs and alcohol?"
My son is a popular teenage boy who has had some friends experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol. While I don't think he has done those things yet, I can't help but worry every time he walks out of our home.
The choices our children make can change their lives forever. While we can't control every single thing they do, we can guide them to make the right choices.
Every time my son says he's going to a party or a friend's house, I tell him, "Always make the right decisions, Brad." We also often talk about the consequences of other people's actions. Being able to use others as examples of what not to do is an excellent way to help him see the reality of bad choices.
For parents who have children with developmental disabilities, I understand what you're going through. I have a 7-year-old with reactive attachment disorder, and I often wonder if he will have a successful, satisfying future.
A therapist once told me this, "Your idea of what a successful, satisfying life is may be much different from his. Don't concentrate on your aspirations for his future, but support what he wants and needs for his life. That's how you can rest assured he will have a satisfying life."
4. "My teen is so lazy. I don't think he'll ever amount to anything in life."
Most teens are just naturally lazy. Does this mean they will never be successful in life? No, not at all.
Adolescence is a difficult time with physical, mental and emotional changes. It's tiring. While supporting the laziness isn't something a parent should do, stepping back and easing your own concerns about the future of a lazy teen is recommended.
Encourage your teen to complete chores and do what he has to do for school and work. You may need to remind him many times and give him pep talks. But also teach him how to motivate himself on his own.
5. "What if she decides to not go to college?"
Not everyone wants to go to college, and that doesn't mean they will fail in life. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook. He quit college and never looked back. College doesn't give you a ticket to a successful life; it just increases your chances of having one.
As parents, we have to support our children as they make decisions about their lives. We may not agree with them at all, but we should support them. After all, our children will end up living the consequences of the lives they choose. As long as they know and understand that, there's nothing more you can really do.
You love your children. You never want anything bad to happen to them. As they get older, it's natural to believe there are many more threats to their safety than there were when they were under your wings.
It may help to realize you are under those same risks they are; but, yet, you've made it this far. Yes, your teen is still learning, and that can increase the risks of him getting hurt. However, you can ease some of your fears by asking questions, discussing potential situations and how to handle them and reminding him what to do or not do. Afterward, it helps to pray and have faith he will be okay.
Remember back to when you were a teen getting ready to enter the "real world." What was it like for you? Thinking about how you felt at that age can help you help your teen. Think about what you would have liked from your parents and other adults around you. Give your teen that and be sure to ask what he or she needs and wants. All you can do is support, guide and hope - which can be scary for a parent - but that's why it's so hard to be one.