Preparing A Teenager For Adulthood
The last few weeks have been a flurry of end of school-year activity. It’s been even busier than the usual end of year because this is the end of 8th grade; next year high school! So there were 8th grade trips and picnics and, of course the graduation. I’m from t’other side of the pond so this graduating 5 times before you even get to college is still a foreign concept for me.
The next four years begin the separation from me and also her maturing into an adult where she will be responsible for herself and have to make her own decisions about all kinds of things. I see so many acquaintances continuing to treat their children as, well, children even after they have grown taller than the parent and can drive. It baffles me. My parenting philosophy has always been to raise decent, well-behaved, responsible adults who contribute in a meaningful way to society and have lives full of purpose that bring them peace as well as a measure of happiness. Not to be still bailing them out of their mistakes when they are in their thirties!
This means that in the next four years my daughter has to learn to run her own home, make good choices, behave responsibly, keep herself safe, and have fun. Actually, she needs to learn at least some of that in the next year because in high school there are opportunities to participate in month-long summer study programs at some of the universities she is considering. Also at some point in the next four years she’ll also learn to drive which brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities for her and worries for me as a parent.
This month, heading into the summer between middle school and high school we will focus on learning to take care of clothing, bed linens and towels etc., and I’ll be blogging along and posting videos in my FB group (Living a Great Big Tiny Life) in case you have teenagers that will be flying the nest sometime in the next few years. Because here’s the thing… if we coddle them and treat them like children their whole lives a) they will never leave home and will be eating all the good cookies until well into their 40s and b) I’m convinced those are the kids that go off the rails in their first semester of college and mess up in ways that are difficult for parents to fix because they have never been made responsible for themselves and their own actions before.
As tempting as it is to step in and fix all of their problems and challenges, as a momma bird has to sit by and watch her chick struggle to fly the nest so do we if we don’t want our fledglings to be eaten by the neighbor’s cat.
Because I like to avoid drama as much as possible I will be working with my daughter to teach her everything I think she needs to know to run her life. I don’t pretend to know everything needed to run my own because at 51 I am still learning and growing. But I can teach her the basics, the rest she will figure out for herself as she grows into a wonderful, accomplished woman. This loathing for drama is also why I will be having her learn all the things she needs to learn over the next four years rather than either cramming it all into the final year or waiting until she’s already at college to give her the deets. This gives her the opportunity to ease into adulthood but also gives me the chance to slowly come to terms with being an empty-nester, at least during the time she is away at college. It’s a great opportunity for us to gradually shift our relationship and give us both greater independence. After all, I’ve been a parent for over 20 years now so it will take some readjusting on my part to allow her the space to grow into the woman that has been peeking through moment by moment since the day she was born.