Parenting a teen often invokes the same fear and trepidation that comes with a bad weather forecast.
As your children approach and then reach their teenage years, you get some odd reactions from both friends and strangers when your child nears a birthday. The responses include cringing, offering sympathies, and wishing you good luck.
People reacted similarly to the forecast for the East Coast, which included a blizzard warning for New York City. There was cringing, apologizing to those in the path and hopes for good fortune for them.
I'm pretty sure that in both situations there are also silent prayers of thanks offered by those not in the same crosshairs.
Having a teenager can be like a winter storm in several ways.
As with the winter weather in Chicago this year, you may think that you've dodged the drama, only to find out that you were wrong and not out of the woods just yet.
Sometimes, though, snow storms and teenagers are not as bad an anticipated.
The weather forecast for Chicago yesterday called for six inches of snow. I know that such an amount can paralyze a city, and of course I was going to be driving into the city during the worst of it. As of yesterday morning, the forecast called for snow to continue throughout the day today and into tonight. Full of nerves and worry, I made plans for the worst.
Turns out, the storm wasn't so bad.
Yesterday's snowfall was just a light coating, with even some determined grass blades peeking through in my yard. And it was over well before noon. The forecast was wrong. Even the blizzard warning for New York City was cancelled and headlines used phrases like "spared the worst."
With both storms and teenagers, sometimes the anticipation is worse than the event.
That doesn't mean that everyday is sunshine with a few puffy white clouds. Storms invariably roll in, and they're far from fun. There can be rough times that do damage, no matter how prepared you try to be.
Just as there is no perfect teenager, there is no location that always has a perfect weather forecast. Knowing that there will be some stormy days makes you appreciate the good ones that much more.
When people tell me they have a child who will soon be a teen, I try to focus on those sunny days. Instead of cringing, I try to smile. I share with them that there's fun ahead, either from their witty observations about everyday life or the fun adventures parents can have with their kids that weren't possible when kids were little.
Laurence Steinberg, PhD., author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence, says that while adolescence is a challenging time and always has been, we need to "stop thinking of it as something to be endured. That is a message we have to stop telling both parents and kids." He notes that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that expecting good in our kids often leads to finding it, even in teenagers.
Parenting a teen is not easy. Far from it. But don't buy into the forecasters calling for gloom and doom. There will be sunny and pleasant days, too. Here's to that forecast being exactly right.
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