Coming of age

We each experienced our own coming of age in a different way. For some of us this time of life was exciting and freeing, while for others it may have brought with it a sense of disillusionment or pain. We each step over the threshold from childhood to adulthood in unique and personal ways, and most times we are not fully aware of what messages we have taken with us from this period of life until we stop to reflect.

How each of us experienced our own coming of age often can color how we parent our teens as they move through their own transition of this kind. Our own unresolved experiences may cause us to feel more cautious or protective of our sons or daughters even though it is part of our story, not theirs. A serious car accident during our own teenage years may result in a fierce desire to protect our children from anything automobile-related.

Lack of support from our own parents when we most needed help navigating the world of college applications may cause us to entirely take over this process for our children, even if they are not asking or needing us to do so.

Although these instincts to protect and help are valid and well-founded, our overreactions can sometimes be the root of conflict between ourselves and our teens, who are quickly becoming young adults ready for the independence and greater responsibility that they are developmentally programmed to crave.

In any relationship between two people, certain requests can trigger different reactions. However, because of the unique nature of the relationship and intimacy we have with our children, certain things our teens do or say can sometimes cause a response in us more reactive than anything else we have ever experienced.

When our children are this age in particular, we have the unique challenge of shifting from guardian/protector to supporter and friend. How to do this is not always comfortable or clear. Yet, if we don't learn to relate to our children in the mutually respectful and trusting way that two good adult friends would, we risk losing an opportunity for a different, deeper relationship later in both our lives.

At the same time our teens are trying to launch, parents can be moving through their own empty nest feelings or reflecting on their midlife position.

Because both parents and teens are going through transitions, albeit very different kinds, this time of child-raising can be one of the more challenging. As parents recognize how they are reacting to this transition and grapple with their own questions about what their lives will look like after their children are no longer under their care, it becomes easier to relate to their teens in a clean and healthy way.

Learning more about our own coming of age and exploring how past experiences have affected our lens of the world can be one of the most effective tools for creating a more peaceful and harmonious relationship with our teens.

In becoming comfortable with past incidences that were uncomfortable we allow ourselves to be more ready for open, non-reactive and honest conversations with our teens. Furthermore, by looking at our relationships with our parents and exploring what our own path to autonomy was like, we can better remember what it is to be a teenager yearning, yet often struggling, to feel respect from the greater world.

It also allows us to remove the transparency of our own story and both see and relate to our children as the independent, unique young adults that they are.

Katherine Holden (formerly of the Wilderness Charter School) and Marla Estes, M.A. will be leading a four-session class on Coming of Age through Film: Self Exploration as a Tool for Parenting Your Teen starting April 9. For more information call Marla at 541-482-4948.

Rogue Valley residents are invited to share inner peace insights and experiences. When we share everyone benefits. Send a 600- to 700-word article to Sally McKirgan

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