Many cultures use special rituals during the adolescence and teen years to mark the time when children transition to becoming responsible for themselves.
When my son turned thirteen, I asked two-dozen of our friends who had known him throughout his life to write their memories and encouraging words for him in a book, and he still has it today. I wanted to send him an empowering message of his value as he moved into his teens.
We tend to bombard our children with mountains of worrisome information that they probably don’t need and that can even hinder them in their effectiveness, including the concept that people and circumstances have the power to make them happy or unhappy.
And as they enter adolescence, they may no longer want to honor or adhere to our viewpoints, the way they did when they were small and thought we were gods.
They want to find their own way. And they need to find and explore their own innate creative power now. And the more we support that, the richer their lives will be.
If we’ve been raising them with the distorted perspective that it’s our job to figure everything out for them, to give them all the answers, and to provide the final word on what’s right and valuable, we may have over-ridden their innate guardian element.
We’re all born with it, and it includes our inner guidance that naturally leads us toward whatever we need. And the parents who trust that about their children are way ahead.
We tend to believe that we know so much and that they know so little. It’s more likely that we’ve forgotten so much, and they’ve forgotten so little – and that they have a lot to teach us about what they still know instinctually.
Children naturally spend most of their time in a state of joy and fun and good feelings, which is the way it’s supposed to be. Too often though, we demonstrate the opposite.
We feel dissatisfied because we have a sense that we’re not where we want to be. And we believe that we need to justify it, so we use external factors as the excuse. In other words, we blame people and conditions for how we feel. And we teach our children to believe that they’re victims of whatever’s happening around them.
It’s our job to set an inspiring example for our kids, which means practicing being the best that we are. It means:
- Not pretending to feel good when we don’t. It’s OK to let our kids know that we sometimes get off track. It’s super important though to demonstrate to them that we have the ability to acknowledge it, and to get back on track, in order to enjoy life.
- Not coercing or manipulating them into doing what we want. It’s never appropriate to send them a message that they should change to make us feel better.
- Not saying one thing while meaning another, because they’ll see through it. Our kids read us perfectly, and they amplify whatever we’re expressing.
- Demonstrating that we have a choice whether to freak out over life or to not get bothered. We have the ability to deliberately choose thoughts and experiences that lead us in the direction of joy – like when we were kids.
- Preparing them for real life. As adolescents, they want and demand freedom. And we can answer, “You’re free to choose whether to feel good or bad.” Then we’re preparing them well, because life doesn’t support our attempts to control people and conditions. Life supports our positive response, even when it’s messy.
The more open and honest we can keep communication in the household, the better. And what can help is marathon communicating, because the special results of marathoning described earlier are also possible for parents and kids.
48 hours of taking turns talking and listening can provide new perspectives on many issues. And we might be amazed by what our children will tell us when they’re allowed, in an environment without distractions or judgments.
Our kids tend to think that they know everything about us, and who we are. And we may be surprised to hear what they think of us. What an experience for them, to listen to us for 24 hours and to find out who we truly are, how we think, and why we chose the ideals we chose.
Four or eight hours won’t be enough. It will take the full marathon process for the magic to take place. When each individual stops struggling to be heard and understood, unexpected things begin to happen.
And it will also work for our adult children. It’s never too late to marathon with our loved ones. It can provide a great opportunity for release, especially if they’re still carrying our voices in their heads.
48 hours of exclusive focused positive attention provides a rare opportunity for parents and children to discover new ways to communicate.
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