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Episode #144 How much involvement is too much when it comes to teenage dating and friendships?
How do I guide my son as he enters and navigates the world of dating and new friendships?
We recently started a new school (at age 13) and he is spending his time with a new group of kids. I want to teach him to look for healthy relationships, both in dating and friendships, but I also want him to be aware of signs of toxic behavior, jealousy, attention seeking girls, trust, morals, etc.
We live in a social media obsessed, poor emotional communication skills world, and sometimes it seems like I’m the only one still trying to guide him through at this age. I’m hoping to prevent false friendships or “frenemy” type relationships. I want him to recognize when someone is a genuine good friend, without giving too much input. When my kids were younger, I would interject freely as needed for guidance. With the new school and the big peer change, I feel conflicted on how much involvement is too much mom involvement.
Parent Educator Answer: How to guide teenagers to make good relationship choices.
It’s easy to impart our wisdom and guide teenagers when they come to us with specific problems or complaints about friendships.
“Diego invited me to his birthday party, but he didn’t invite Sam. Sam asked me to hang out this Saturday during Diego’s birthday party. What should I do?”
“Kylie keeps texting me asking why I’m not texting her back. It’s getting super annoying. How do I get her to leave me alone?”
For a mom who wants to guide her kids’ social relationships, this is music to the ears. A real life situation and a kid who is asking mom for advice.
The best way for me to answer Nicole’s question “How to guide teens to make good choices” is to help get her into a position where her kid comes to her for help with real life problems.
Opening up the lines of communication between parents and tweens is the main purpose of my Time for The Talk class. When you show your kid you can talk about sexuality in a relaxed and open way, they learn you are open to talking about other difficult topics as well. Time for The Talk class starts February 15th and it’s the only one I’m teaching this year so if you have a 9-12 year old, or a young 13 year old, sign up at www.TimeforTheTalk.comLEARN MORE ABOUT TIME FOR THE TALK CLASS
Let’s look at this way. A 13 year old’s job is to fire their parent. To communicate to parents in words and actions, “Your work here is done.”
“I have internalized everything you taught me over the last 13 years, you are a very loud voice in my head that will never go away. Now I need to make room for other voices inside my head. I want to make room for what my teachers, coaches, authors and idols have to say. I want to make room for my friend’s opinions, and those I follow on social media. I still want to know what you think about the complex decisions I will need to make, but I want to have some new experiences and have room to learn from my own mistakes. I want your input, but I want to come to my own conclusions about what I think and believe to be true and right for me.”
While a kid’s job is to fire their parents, a parent’s job is to earn a place at the board of director’s table. To demonstrate, to your child, that you can provide wisdom and guidance when asked. To show your kid you are willing and available to discuss difficult topics, while respecting their journey and allowing mistakes to be made without overreacting.
13 is the perfect age for parents to switch from being the authoritative parent with all the answers, to being your child’s coach. The coach is there to help the child get what THEY want. The coach has been through it before and now, with an outsider’s perspective, can offer wisdom and experience to the player. The coach isn’t on the field playing the game, they are the one to turn to when things get tough, or when kid’s can’t see the forest for the trees. The coach doesn’t worry about the player because they know failing, losing and getting hurt are all part of the process of working towards their goals.
Nicole’s problem is that there are no real problems to solve yet. What she can do in the meantime is talk, out loud, about her own friendship struggles.
How do you handle it when you said yes to a social engagement that you really don’t want to attend?
What do you say to friends who are needy or passive aggressive?
When you find out you have been left out of a social gathering, or being lied to, how do you handle that situation?
How do you handle it when friends share inappropriate content with you?
Relationships are messy. There is no perfect way to navigate through every social situation. When you are open and can discuss them without judgement of right/wrong, good/bad, your child will learn that you are the perfect person to come to when struggles emerge.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from becoming our child’s coach instead of parent?
What keeps us from the neutral, emotionally detached seat at the board of directors table?
Fear of being a “bad mom” and fear of losing our role in our child’s life.
There is a sneaky little cultural belief that has slipped into our subconscious minds causing us to WORRY about our kids. This pervasive cultural belief sounds like “A good mom should prevent her child from negative emotions and negative experiences.” or “If my child gets involved in a toxic relationship, I have somehow failed as his mother.”
When we think our job is to prevent problems from occurring, we get ATTACHED to the outcome. We care, too much, about making sure our child only has positive experiences. When our child gets caught up in a frenemy situation, we think we’ve failed to do our job properly. We don’t want to fail, so we try to prevent our kids from having negative experiences.
When we try to guide and educate from fear, it comes across to our teens as “I don’t trust you to make good decisions on your own.” “I don’t trust that the last 10 years of my teachings has been enough.” “I don’t trust your friends to be nice to you, or for you to be able to handle it without my help.”
When we WORRY instead of TRUST, it closes off communication. It either makes kids not want to come to you with problems because they don’t want you to worry or not trust them, or it makes them scared of getting into relationships altogether.
The other obstacle that gets in our way is a fear of losing our role as mom. It sounds like Nicole has been very involved in her son’s life, education (WE changed schools) and social life for the last 13 years. When you’ve built so much of your life and identity around being an involved mom, it’s really scary to let go of it. In my Leading Your Teen coaching program, we devote significant time to letting go of this role because it is a big obstacle to us, being the mom we want to be, to our adolescents.
The antidote to worry, is trust. But in order to access it, we have to shake off the belief that our job as moms is to prevent our children from having negative experiences. We also need to let go of the wonderful time we had raising our kid, to make room for the experience of raising an adolescent, whose job is to make mistakes.
Remind yourself that unsavory social relationships are a part of life. When kids enter into toxic relationships, they get a quick lesson in what they DON’T want, making it suddenly very clear and important what they DO want. These unhealthy relationships help us appreciate the healthy ones and make us determined to make smart choices with future friends and romantic partners.
Supermom Kryptonite – Waiting until your kid leaves the house to rediscover yourself.
Rediscover is such a good word. It means to discover something again that has been ignored or forgotten. When your child turns 13, or starts pushing you away, yearning for separation, it is the perfect time to rediscover the sides of ourselves that got buried while parenting.
If we wait until our child turns 18, or leaves the house, we run the risk of parenting from fear. Fear of not being needed, fear of an empty life, fear of losing our identity as mom. Fear, unchecked, turns into need, dependency and control. When we NEED our kids to stay dependent on us, it makes us dependent on them, which doesn’t feel good. When we feel we are losing control, we cling more tightly, making our kids push us even harder away.
So waiting until your kid leaves the house to rediscover yourself is today’s Supermom Kryptonite.
Start now, while you are still entrenched in the day-to-day busyness of raising a teenager who is still dependent on you. Think back to the time before kids, what did you used to do for fun? Is there a way you can incorporate that into your life now?
Maybe you used to wait tables or go out dancing in night clubs to pick up hotties. Notice the voice that comes in and says, “but I don’t want to do that now”. This naysayer voice will keep you stuck but don’t let it. Get general instead of specific.
Ask what about that activity was most enjoyable? If it was dancing you liked, there are many ways to do that now. Was it getting dressed up with your girlfriends or the excitement of a crowded place? Come join me in Mardi Gras! Did you love the unpredictability of a night out? Pick a day and drive to a new location. Instead of making plans, just allow the day to unfold, doing whatever you feel like doing in that moment.
Reconnecting to what used to be fun before kids, will make the empty nest sting less. Start now building a life that is more YOU focused, and less kid focused. Your teen will enjoy the reduced pressure your attention on him sometimes offer. He will enjoy seeing you try new things, grow in new, uncomfortable directions, just like he is. You can share embarrassing stories of putting yourself out there only to get rejected. Role modeling instead of lecturing is much more powerful.
Rediscover the part of you that parenting buried so you can diversify your joy. When parenting isn’t the main source of joy and purpose, it makes it easier to let go and trust your kid to come to you if he needs help.
Supermom Power Boost – Listen to your gut
We cannot prevent our kids from negative emotions, or negative experiences, nor should we. But we can help them learn to trust their gut. “Listening to your intuition” “The still voice in your head” are very abstract terms for our literal kiddos.
To make it more concrete, point out what you see and hear. “I notice you laugh more when Dante is around.” “Whenever you sleepover at Reece’s house, you seem extra cranky the next day.” “You have the same complaint about basketball every year.” “I see you light up when you are at drama practice.” Our brains can talk us into anything but our bodies show the truth. Pointing out what we see can help our kids cut through the mental clutter and know the truth.
When they do come to you with advice asking, “What should I do about so and so?” Ask them questions in return. What do you like about it? What is your gut telling you? “What do you know to be true about you?” can help your child tune into their intuition and instinctual intelligence.
Quote of the Day: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but won’t get you anywhere.” Erma Bombeck