Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So you've got teenagers

Teenagers have a language all their own. It’s like their world. It’s their lingo. So as parents, how do we connect to them?

First, we speak their language. Well, we can’t learn all that fast. We will stammer around a few words but our teenagers will appreciate the effort. Allow them to educate you. And then, there’s the matter of teenage style and music. At home, I had to learn K-Pop from my two teenagers and sing along with them as they listen to their favorite tunes. How else did I know and appreciate the latest music if I didn’t hear them play the guitar or roll the drums while listening to their favorite tunes? Then there’s their fashion sense. They have their fashion icons as well. And they will laugh at ours back when we were teenagers. It is very important that parents are sensitive to their teenagers’ needs as the latter try to establish or assert their identity and individuality. Who discovered individuality anyways? Just asking.
Face it, eventually your kids will leave you. But before they do, they need to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and most importantly, their identity.

Talk to your teenagers. My teenagers and I are always talking. They love to talk and I love to listen. Most times, they want me to talk and they listen. My daughter would often say, “Mi, tell me about your young life”. They share their aspirations; fears; insecurities; angst; frustrations; anger; pain and joy with me. It’s no big deal that we talk because we really do. And boy they love to talk with a parent listening! We always make sure that meal time is chat time. That’s right: meal time is chat time.

Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect. Who’s perfect anyway? But we can work around an arrangement that suits us all. Me, I always desire for my kids to grow in experience and exposure like every parent does. So I allow them to travel as often as possible. Last summer, Shiloh Ruthie flew to Iloilo City by her lonesome. Her summers were regularly spent in Bohol when father was still alive but with father gone, it seemed that her interest to spend summers in Bohol has waned. But who knows? She may just study in Tagbilaran City when she enters college next year. That will be the day. In fact, my late father wrote a column about Shiloh’s summer visits in Bohol in The Sunday Post when father was still alive. Shiloh and I read that. It was very touching and poignant. We will never know how much our parents or grandparents appreciate our visits and acts of kindness until we read them written in words.

Last July, Hezekiah Kit took land, air, and sea transports just to reach Bohol. What a trip! He was physically drained and stressed by the time he reached our residence in Tagbilaran City, but I think the experience was worth it. Imagine his route: Gen. Santos City to Davao City by bus; Davao City-Cebu City by plane; Cebu City to Tubigon, Bohol by boat and then Tubigon wharf to our Tagbilaran City residence by private vehicle. And he did all of these in just one day whew! Super kid huh! I can imagine the stress.

As parents, there are plenty of occasions that we need to set our foot down. During these trying moments, we must, without hesitation. No exceptions. Like using the internet and watching TV. Teenagers nowadays don’t read anymore. They don’t know what they’re missing. Reading aids comprehension and increases vocabulary. Look at the way they text? It’s upsetting. They deliberately misspell and then they get confused about the right spelling.

Teenagers have different needs and parents must rise up to the challenge. What’s important is teenagers have an avenue where they can totally express themselves and feel totally accepted and understood. That’s the main function of the home – a safety net for teenagers to express themselves.

It’s not easy being a teenager. But it’s not easy being a parent either. Like they say, there’s no college course or higher study for Parenting 101. Parenting is practical wisdom, possessing a big heart, sustaining unconditional love, practicing total acceptance, extending full support, engaging in lengthy conversations and constant disciplining rolled into one. Sometimes we miss; sometimes we score. It’s a continuing learning process. Just don’t give up being a parent. Talk to other parents and be strengthened in the process. Do not abnegate your role and participation in raising your teenagers. They are looking at you for guidance, direction and discipline. They may not say it but it’s wired in their system that guidance, direction and discipline come from parents. So discipline and correct with gentleness. Be firm but not harsh. Parents have a tendency to be harsh when correcting. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most parents do. I have a tendency to be harsh myself. Well, when we do, let us just speak to our teenagers when heads are cooler and discuss the issue at hand. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Talk, talk, talk. Parenting is a great responsibility and challenge. When I say challenge, I mean all including feeding, clothing, educating, sustaining their needs, teaching and molding, and allowing them to grow at the same time. Raising them well is a parent’s greatest reward.

It’s not honeymoon all the time. There will be bad times but at the end of the day when they express how much they love you in many subtle ways including verbalizing their thoughts and feelings; and show you how much respect they have for you and what you speak of, then you can pat yourself on the shoulder and say, “My cup runneth over”.

 Food for thought: "No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure." - Emma Goldman

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