|Billy Ray Cyrus and his teenage daughter Miley in 2009’s Hannah Montana: The Movie. Before you know it, your teen will be all grown up, so give him or her all the attention now. - Disney photo
TEENS & TWEENS
By CHARIS PATRICK
The 1970s folk rock song Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin is indeed thought-provoking. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the tune. For those who aren’t, you can go to YouTube and have a listen. The song depicts a father who, despite his desire to love and be with his son, never found the time to do so.
When his son grew up, he never had time for the old man either.
The song ends with the poignant realisation: “And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me. He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.”
I don’t know if we truly understand how much our actions and choices influence our children’s lives.
Children watch everything their parents do. It is uncanny how much they learn simply through observation.
The common complaint among teens and tweens about their parents are: “They are so fake! This is so lame! Get real!”
Parents will do well to remember the character Polonius’ line in the Shakespearean play Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.”
As parents of teens and tweens, it is important to be authentic and true to ourselves. By being authentic, we empower our teens and tweens. For example, we teach them to be honest and to tell the truth. But over and over again, we ourselves will be put to the test through our actions and words.
Take the classic “Tell them Daddy/Mummy is not home.” Or, what do we do when we receive extra change during grocery-shopping with our kids? You may dismiss these as innocuous episodes but our teens and tweens are very attentive. They may act blur but, believe me, they are watching and listening. This will be the true test of our authenticity.
May we all be caught being honest and truthful. It is the small things that make a big difference! We empower our teens and tweens by taking a stand - whether it’s about “bullying will not be tolerated” or “racism is not acceptable.”
The real empowerment comes about when we walk the talk. Do we act immediately when we hear that they might be victims of bullying, such as taking time to find out more or if need be, go to the school and talk to the teacher?
In conversations, are we sometimes careless to include insensitive racial remarks or even allow racist jokes?
When we take a stand, we give our children security and something to believe in while at the same time empowering them to make their own choices. We empower them by living life to the fullest and being grateful.
Our children will see how we respond to crises, stress, disappointment and more. We can tell them how to act and what to do. However, the empowerment comes when they observe our choices, especially when we think no one’s looking.
Are you a parent who complains about every little thing? Or do you choose to look on the bright side?
Do you talk about people and participate in gossip? Do they see you doing right more than wrong?
We empower our children, especially the teens, when we are willing to apologise. I’m not saying that you need to apologise for every little thing. However, I believe such gestures speak to them on a deeper level and help them build self-esteem.
It’s a time in their lives when they begin to realise that we, as parents, are less than perfect. We will make mistakes in our parenting journey. By apologising, we model for them the ownership of our mistakes and allow them to see the power of forgiveness in action.
Finally, the four precious letters: T-I-M-E. Yes, time. We empower them by the giving of our time - not only when we want to but at the moment when they require it. When it is time to give them our undivided attention, drop everything and listen to them.
It is not every day that your teen or tween will come to you and say they need to talk. When they come home, let them see that you are happy to see them, not as if they are an interruption to your day.
Mums, empower your girls by being secure, authentic, passionate women who respect yourselves.
Let your teens and tweens see that you are not afraid to be who you are.
Men, empower your sons by being a protector and provider for the family.
Stand strong yet be fully in touch with your feelings. It is important to have compassionate and loving conversations with your teens and tweens.
As challenging as it may be during the teen/tween phase, cherish the years. They will grow up in no time and there is no way we can turn back the clock.
Charis Patrick is a trainer and family life educator who is married with four children.