Hi Emma,I have two teenage/young adult sons – 17 and 20 – and am realizing that relating to them at this age can sometimes be challenging. It seems they want to be completely independent and don’t think I should say anything to them that’s even mildly “mothering”. For example, my youngest son was leaving the house the other day on a cold day without any shoes, and I asked him if he thought it might be a good idea to put on shoes. He was very miffed and said I was interfering with his decision-making. I’m trying really hard not to be the “over-protective mother”, but of course I still care about their well-being. I am trying to respect their growing independence as well. I know it’s important to let them learn from their errors at this age and to not worry about less important things, while realizing that there are certain safety issues I’ll need to be stronger about – drugs, alcohol, safe sex, driving w/ friends under the influence. So I’m recognizing that I need to “choose my battles” more at this age because it is natural to listen to parents less and make sure I am saving my talking points! It’s really hard to find the right balance – any suggestions?
– In-between Mom
Dear In-between Mom,
Ah – how to keep them safe and still foster independence? At 17, kids are preparing for life on their own in college, and if they don’t know enough to put on shoes in cold weather, they’ll learn. You’re right about choosing your battles – clothes, shoes, and hair are not worth fighting about. Piercings and tattoos are a grey area.
Mostly, listening is more important than advising, and if you need to give advice, make sure they are open to hearing it. A friend of mine once tried to subtly raise the subject of safe sex with her son by leaving a box of condoms in his room. His response was to tell her that if he was old enough to have sex, he was old enough to buy his own condoms. She kept her mouth shut after that.
Michael Riera in his book (highly recommended) “Uncommon Sense for the Parents of Teenagers” says something like the difference between raising younger children and raising teenagers is the difference between owning a dog or living with a cat. Dogs need affection, approval, contact. Cats – well, they probably just want you to feed them and leave them alone, unless they feel like being scratched or petted until they’re done with that. Teenagers often just want money or the car keys, unless they’re sick, heartbroken or injured and need Mom. I personally really enjoyed my daughter’s rare sick days.