30 years ago, as I stood in the foyer of our townhouse, clearly having done something wrong (as per usual back then), my mother screamed over the banister, “Just wait, one day you’ll have one, just like you!” – it wasn’t a compliment. And when I was 34 and still without child, she gingerly asked if I was every going to have children and I reminded her of said situation and laughingly said, “Why would I?”
But fortunately for me, I did have children. One, actually. And the joke is on my Mom. My daughter is nothing like I was. I call her my “one-derful.” She is smart like her daddy (and very close with him), funny and fair as the day is long, emotionally endearing and comfortable in her tween skin. I like her immensely. And I love her more than I could have ever imagined.
That’s why I knew I needed help when her thirteenth birthday began to loom. It was obvious to me that some of my choices for her (where to go to HS, where not to go to HS) and silly fears of basic teen behavior (make-up, boys, etc) was “my stuff” bubbling to the surface, not hers. And so I called Susan Klein, an amazing family/kid counselor in our community, and made an appointment (let me know if anyone wants her number). I didn’t foresee needing intense therapy, but knew a few pointers would surely help me navigate the time to come. Luckily, I had also sat on the Board of Smart-Girl for years (www.smart-girl.org), had learned a few things and knew they, too, had amazing resources for girls and moms as they move through this tumultuous time (check them out for helpful info and if you live in Denver, you must attend their luncheon in April on the developing teen brain. It will be amazing!).
My 50 minutes with Susan yielded some great tips. I share them with the hope that all we’ll scream at our own children is “yeehaa!” and that what we see in them is a reflection of their own true selves, not our own wounded teenager.
The only way to be close to your kids during these years is to ask them questions and become familiar with their experience before going anywhere in your mind about what something means.
At this age, do more listening than talking in order to help understand their experience. Its not yours.
If you hear something that freaks you out, tell them you are concerned and that you are going to sit with it. Put the conversation on hold and take some time to ponder – it will become clear as to whether it is a slippery slope or normal glitch.
Take a Colombo attitude (the TV detective from our childhood). Get curious as if trying to solve a mystery. The mystery is their experience!
- “Tell me about that”
- “How did it happen?”
- “What were you doing?” (watch your tone…)
- “ I want you to have choices and I want to understand your experience. Indulge me and help me understand.“
- “There is only one way to make a good decision (child’s name) and that is to have ALL the information you need.” – Then its info we as parents can use to reinforce what we want them to know.
If your spouse sees it differently, ask them what they are worried about. They have stuff in this, too! Remember, everyone could use a little support in this job.
Luckily, my mom and I are dear friends today, and I get to pass on to my daughter the spirit of a long line of strong Kyett women (and I hope the Glicksteins, as well; talk about a strong and smart lineage). I pray that is ALL I pass on. As my old and wise friend Barb says, “People tell you who they are. Listen.” Thankfully, so far, all I hear is singing from the bathroom.
How do you MindFULLY navigate with your kids? Let us know!