Love Them Through It

Weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard High School (Indianapolis) parent community:

In the past few months, I have written a couple of letters lamenting how tough it is to be a parent these days. That is certainly true. In these modern times, the only tougher job I can think of is being a teenager.

I know we work hard to convince our kids how much easier they have things these days, and how tough we had it “back in our day.” However, just between you and I, there is no way I would want to be a teenager in today’s world.

For example, consider all that is going on in the life and mind of high school seniors:

  • They are expected to behave like adults, but are given none of the rights and privileges of adulthood.
  • They are told they must nail down what college they are going to attend and what their major will be.
  • At the same time, they are being told to “stop dreaming” and stay focused on their high school academics.
  • They must obey curfews and parental rules (all of which they consider old-fashioned and unfair), when in just a few short months they will be on their own.
  • They are living in a society that is constantly telling them to grow up, but sometimes they just want to be kids.
  • Their role models come from TV shows like The Kardashians and Teen Mom.
  • They are getting ready to enter college, and will likely take on debt, knowing that there is no guarantee they will land a job.

Their relationships are changing.

What about their boyfriends or girlfriends? Can they maintain their relationship while attending different colleges?

Their friends experiment with some things and begin to make some poor choices. Should they not be friends with them anymore? Should they confront them about it and possibly lose them as friends? Should they follow their lead? Sounds like a lose-lose-lose proposition.

They assert their independence and in so doing push away the people who care about them the most – their parents. They distance themselves from them, gradually sharing less and less with them. They lose sight of how much their parents love them.

They carry all of this junk around with them. They laugh one minute and cry the next. They become hypersensitive because there are so many people on them to do this or do that. They withdraw a bit. People ask, “What’s the matter?” or say something dumb like, “High school should be the greatest years of your life!” and they’re thinking, “Really?”

I wouldn’t want to be a teenager – not these days. However, that doesn’t get you or I off the hook, because they’re our kids. They need us more than ever despite what they say and how they respond.

We need to love them when they are not all that lovable.

What does that love look like? It includes those same curfews, rules, boundaries, and consequences that we’ve always had.

However, it also includes offering them some understanding, giving them a little space when needed, taking opportunities to spend time with them, having heart-to-heart talks with them, hugging them, and telling them over and over again how much we love them – and that our love is unconditional.

They will hear us. They may not acknowledge us, but they’ll hear us. And someday, maybe even years from now, they will appreciate that we stuck with them.

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