Just when you think you’ve got the hang of being a dad, adolescence comes knocking. Suddenly, you go from being your kids’ hero to being the clueless guy who just doesn’t get it.
Though the teen years are challenging, sometimes I catch a glimpse of the adults they’re becoming and it’s beautiful. It’s moments like these that strengthen my resolve to prepare them for adulthood.
As if helping my teens navigate the stormy teenage seas isn’t tough enough, I have to prepare them to succeed in a rapidly evolving digital world. This means balancing the various messages they get from social media with a healthy dose of reality. I’m finding out that preparing my teens to leave the nest is quite a learning experience for me too.
Relaxing my hold on the parental reins
You’ve probably heard about helicopter parents who hover around, keeping tabs on their kids’ every move. Well, I decided to go in a different direction and chose to take the submarine parenting approach by backing off on purpose.
My teens are always telling me how grown up and independent they are, so I decided to relax the reins a little and let them make some decisions on their own. They get to book their own appointments as well as manage their own budgets and schedules. As a result, they get to experience the rewards or consequences of their actions and develop the skills to tackle things on their own. They also learn how their actions directly affect their lives. After all, how will they grow up if I keep doing everything for them?
Encouraging them to take risks and embrace failure
Adulting involves taking lots of risks and learning how to deal with failure. I don’t want my teens to quit as soon as things don’t go their way. So I encourage them to take risks and explore what’s beyond their comfort level. The more things they try, the more they’ll achieve and the more self-assured they’ll become.
For instance, last year my teen daughter wanted more money so I challenged her to find new ways of earning it. Some of her ideas didn’t work but some did and you know what? The confidence and resilience she gained through that summer have spilled into other aspects of her life. She now has a better understanding of her abilities and she can start pushing her limits.
Talking to my teen with respect
Relationships are a crucial part of life and I do my best to teach my teens how to forge healthy ones. One way I do this is by talking to them with the same respect I show fellow adults. I realised that telling my kids what to do only fosters rebellion and resistance so these days I give them options and ask open-ended questions instead. I ask their opinions on varying subjects and engage them in friendly debates to teach them that others do have different points of view which should be respected, even if you don’t agree with them.
Above all, I remind them that they have my love and support and that being an adult is really about showing up, doing your best and living your best life.