I am a student of life. I always seek understanding in what I am experiencing. The sources are mainly from books, self-reflections, observation, media, conversations with the experienced ones and those who are in the same boat as I am. Having a daughter, parenting would be almost like a life long study. My daughter will be fourteen soon, and therefore teenagers will be my subject of study for a while.
According to Julian Sleigh, an author of the book “Thirteen to nineteen”, adolescent is a dramatic time for any young person. He suggested that one way for us parents to try to understand the upheaval of the teenage period is to look at what happened to us when we were teenagers. The changes which take place affects them so much that their whole being is being challenged, sometime to the very core. He said that we as parents are better able to cope with the challenges, if we become aware of our own attitudes and observe our reactions. For example, we tend to worry when the teenager scene approaches; we know our child will be exposed to many dangers. Every step of life has its dangers; why the particular worries around this one.
Julian said that there are obvious worries but the more subtle reasons for being insecure had to do with our own peace mind. He said that the teenagers are our mirrors in relations to us as parents looking back into our own lives as teenagers; “Have I fully come to terms with the issues that have stirred in me then?” Were there areas of fear and guilt which I suppressed, either because I felt I should or because others made me to do so?”, “And now that I am facing my adolescent stage of my child, is it these unresolved emotions that are rising up in me?” Overreacting is a pointer to unresolved conflicts in oneself. The threat that the adolescent poses becomes less if the parent acknowledges his or her own locked up stresses and strive to resolve them. The peace that will eventually result from this will be thanks to the fact that there is a teenager in the family!
Then there can be the fear of losing control over the child. It is so important to address this fear if it lurks in one soul, and be very honest about it. The parent has been sovereign over the child but he simply cannot rule the adolescent. All parents go through the agonizing process of realizing that they no longer have full control. If the sovereignty is changed into supportive guidance, a new relationship comes about. Here, Julian gave a very good metaphor of the king and the shepherd in relation to the mode of parenting a teenager.
The qualities of the king have to do with authority and the power to assert that authority whenever necessary. To gain and maintain this authority the king has to have knowledge and wisdom and also, strong self-discipline. He is looked upon as an example. He has to be wise enough to listen to his inner guidance as well as information and opinions, and be able to make decisions uninfluenced by the desire for power and personal gain. A king has to be a philosopher and a warrior, a judge and a counselor, a ruler and a servant bearing the destiny of his people. He alao has to be enlightened enough to welcome the growing to maturity of his crown prince and others of his progeny, consciously preparing them for the task that they will carry on in the future. The kingly qualities engender order and freedom at the same time. His head is crowned to indicate the nobility and wealth of his thinking power. He wears rich garments and live in a palace.
The shepherd knows his terrain and his sheep: for both, he has the right interest and feels the right love. He is peaceful in himself and peacefulness comes about around him: this help his sheep to thrive. He keeps an eye on the weather and know how to work with the changing seasons of the year: he also guards the sheep against the wolf that lurks unseen. He cares and feels and so engages the quality of his heart in what he does for the sheep. His garments are homespun, hardy and meant for being out in the open; and his dwelling will be a cottage near the pastures.
So as parents, can we identify our role as either the king or the shepherd? Ideally, we should have both in the right mix, “kingly shepherds”. The growing person seeks for sovereignty, self control and self knowledge in those who are to be his examples. He does not want to feel ruled; he looks for person who by being sovereign over themselves, are able to give him the protection that he needs without depriving him of his freedom. The young child needs to be commanded; he gains security from the authority of his parents. The adolescent should rather be commended; he thrives on the guidance and praise that his parents give him. This is the meaning of “supportive guidance”.
Here, Julian, in his book, gave a good description of the “push and pull in the tug of war” experiences of a teenager. Adolescent is a time of expansion and of contraction, of new strength but also of timidity. There is a stirring of a love for beauty and a fascination with ugliness, a search for values and a drastic discarding of what exists in the established order. There is a dramatic expansion of intelligence, but it is in danger of being stultified by drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Ideals are born within the person, but also cynicism. He has the longing to become a true person but cannot yet, trust his own worth. The adolescent seeks for independence but knows that he needs support. He rejects his parents’ authority and yet seeks approval. His accustomed order and rhythm succumbs to chaos and untidiness. Feeling the spiritual stirring in him, the teenager looks for purity in relationship and yet he begins to experiment with sex. He wants to put the world right, but often tends rather to destroy all that exists. He wants to be one with the adults around him but knows that he is not yet mature. He seeks for a faith but rejects religion. He can be hurtful in his criticism of others, and yet is devastated when approval is withheld from him. He is continually challenging to his parents to leave him free, but would be lost without their support. He longs to assert himself but feels small in a world that has suddenly become big around him. He adopts a separate culture, often alien to his parents, but wants to be understood.
Although I am at the first few chapters of Julian’s book, I just cannot wait to share his writing which I find insightful. As a mother, I can say I am always trying my best and still learning and always have the best intention. I may have experiences being a child and adolescent and I can share that in some way with my daughter but as a mother I am always a first timer parent of each day of my child’s growing phase. Many a times even with all the best intention, resources, skill and knowledge, I have still to walk back a few steps to redirect my nurturing path. The most important thing is to keep working on parenting myself for peace of mind and faith in order to be the best as I can be for my daughter. To all parents, I am sure you will agree with me that the joy of having a child is a blessing. There will be more sharing to come. Enjoy!