Between Parent and Teenager
By Dr. Haim G. Ginott, Edited and Indexed by H. Wallace Goddard
May be copied for noncommercial, educational purposes
A day comes in any parent’s life when there is a sudden realization: “My child is a child no longer.” This is a unique moment of elation and fear. There is joy in seeing our seed – a sapling. There is also apprehension: No longer can we protect our teen from all winds. No longer can we stand between him and the world, or shield her from life’s dangers. From now on our almost-adult must face unavoidable challenges unaccompanied by us.
There is also conflict. As parents, our need is to be needed; as teenagers their need is not to need us. This conflict is real; we experience it daily as we help those we love become independent of us.
This can be our finest hour. To let go when we want to hold on requires utmost generosity and love. Only parents are capable of such painful greatness.
Is coexistence possible?
No one could doubt the intentions of parents who worry about their teens: They want to see their children happy, healthy, and safe. Yet so often their efforts are unrewarded and their love unrequited. Teenagers resent unsolicited attention and advice. They strive to appear grown-up, independent, and self-sufficient. They need to feel capable of finding their way without parental dialect. They are like people needing loans but wishing they were financially independent. Regardless of how accommodating the parental bank may be, the interest will be resented by the teenage borrower. Help is perceived as interference; concern as babying; advice as bossing. Autonomy, though feared, is valued above all. Anyone interfering with it is the enemy.
Parents of teenagers face a difficult dilemma: How to help when help is resented; how to guide when guidance is rejected; how to communicate when attention is taken as attack.