Bobby McFerrin was talking about a whole different lifestyle when he wrote the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart but the title seemed apt for this week’s blog.
On Tuesday, we held parent-teacher interviews for our Middle and Senior School students and it struck me that the one thing we all seem to have in common is that we worry about our teenagers.
We worry about their emotional state, what they are eating, whether they are exercising and how they are doing academically. We worry about their friendship circles, their mental health, their future employment and all the changes we see them going through.
Watching your child grow into a teenager has been described as akin to aliens abducting your teen and taken over their brain. In an article by Attorney Kathryn Boortz she describes it well. “Who is that mute, surly teenager slumped at the dinner table monosyllabically responding to your questions with as few words as possible? What happened to the sweet, chatty, playful child who sat in that chair just a few short months ago? Was the child abducted by aliens and subjected to a mind-altering brain probe, or perhaps even a brain transplantation?”
Parents of teenagers have every reason to worry, or do they? Teenage brains and bodies are undergoing a huge transformation. Everything is changing and it is happening all at once. If this is the norm, then why are we worrying? Here are my three reasons to ‘don’t worry, be happy’.
1. It’s an age-old and worldwide situation.
Teenagers across the world and through the ages go through these changes and worrying about them never helped a single one of them. About 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Greek philosopher Aristotle was quoted as saying this about youth: “Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning — all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything — they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.” Peter the Hermit in 1274AD said, “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they know everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them.”
If you are worried about your teen, then you are not alone. However, it is time to put aside the worry and work out a plan to survive, thrive and ‘be happy’ throughout these tumultuous times.
2. Worrying can make things worse.
The teenage years are where your child grows from childhood into adulthood. The last thing they want is a worrying or fussing parent when they feel like they should be treated as an adult (even when they are many years from that milestone). The usual response to a worrying parent is for the teen to withdraw more and communicate less.
There are countless parent books that are excellent resources on how to navigate the teen years. Our library has a special section on parenting and GCC families are very welcome to pop in and borrow some of these books. Empower yourself with information and you will worry a lot less.
3. Be happy.
The teenage years are rich in first-time experiences and it is a joy to see your children become adults. Focus on the blessings of the teenage years and celebrate the milestones your child reaches. It will mean that they are less dependent on you and some parents struggle with this but parenting is all about raising children to become adults.
One of the great things the government has introduced is the 100 hours of driving before teenagers can apply for their licence. This is 100 hours when they can’t be on their devices and is the perfect time to grow closer together, getting to know each other as your relationship changes and develops.
Celebrate the milestones of your teen getting their first job, maybe going on their first date or purchasing their first mobile phone. Give them space when they need it but keep good firm boundaries in place and communicate with each other often. Don’t be afraid to resort to honest bribery like offering to shout them lunch in their favourite place for some one-on-one time to catch up.
The teenage years will fly by and then you have the whole other adjustment of an adult to adult relationship with your child. This era also holds its own special joys but don’t worry and rush through the teenage years just because they seem more challenging.
Sometimes we worry because we don’t know what else to do but I want to leave you with this beautiful verse that turns worry into action. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
Mike Curtis, Principal