Empowering Teenagers to Fend for Themselves

With most of my kids in the teen years right now, I look back at where we started and what helped them to grow into the great young adults they are now.

My kids are far from perfect, I want to acknowledge that right up-front. I won’t go into detail, but kids will be kids and every one is different.

But something I’ve come to understand and acknowledge is that we often blame our kids for something we’ve created in them. Sometimes we give them too much help and then they come to rely on us for things they should be able to do themselves. Things like laundry, making their own lunches, cleaning their own rooms, you name it.

Part of our job as parents is to teach our kids how to be independent before they flee the nest. They need to be able to do certain things to survive out there in the world. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t follow Jack off to college and I don’t plan to do so with any of the other kids.

A friend of mine recently said that “kids need to feel a little pain.” It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s true. Without failures and lost opportunities, kids will never feel what it’s like to want for something–and that’s not a healthy way to go into adulthood.

It’s HARD to watch your kids fail and not come to their rescue. But there are lessons for all of us in allowing our kids to find their footing where they are and grow from there.

For example, they confidently try out for a sports team but fail to make the team they thought they would. Instead of calling the coach or league official to find out why, let your child navigate the feelings and responsibility with the team they did make. This is a great opportunity for your child to play a leadership role in the team, and to work on skills that will ensure a spot on another team next time around.

We’re so good at protecting our kids from pain that they won’t know what to do with that pain out in the real world. Jack recently had the opportunity to come home from college a few days early but needed to change his flight to do so. Of course I wanted him to come home early, but I put the responsibility on him to make the flight change. He did.

One of the girls recently wanted to buy something at the store, something she had to have. But she didn’t have any money because she had already spent it. It’s okay for her to want for something and to feel poor for a while, and she had to save up her money to buy it.

Nothing in life is ever given to us; kids need to learn to navigate the feelings and responsibilities of being an adult. This is easier for them if we start when they’re young and have them take ownership of chores and their own belongings. The lesson won’t be lost on them when they head out to their first job or to college down the road.

I am a 44-year old married mom of 4. I love my family. If you’re a mom, then you know kids and a spouse keep you busy. It’s easy to forget yourself in the process of taking care of your family. My mission is to help other moms take care of themselves so they can be more available to their loved ones and lead more fulfilling lives.

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