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How to be the parents our teenagers need

This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. All opinions are my own.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a virtual conversation with Christine Koh, Molly Ringwald (yes, THE Molly Ringwald) and Dr. Ken Ginsburg on raising teens.

I’m dating myself a bit, but I first remember Molly Ringwald when she was on Facts of Life in the 80s. Throughout the years, she has acted in many dynamic roles and is seen as a teen icon. A big part of our conversation was how that role has shaped her view of the teenage years – especially as a mother to teenagers.

The Importance of Giving Teenagers a Voice

John Hughes has been widely recognized as a pioneer in his craft. His films, depicting the American teenager and their journey into adulthood, have inspired generations of teens and their parents.

Molly played a big role in the way a generation saw teens and how teens viewed themselves. While she didn’t understand the impact at the time, the films with John Hughes had an incredible impact because they gave a voice to teenagers. They were a way to give credence to what teenagers had to say, and why parents, trusted adults, and society should listen to them.

Many of the films can be used to open the lines of communication between teenagers and adults in their lives. While they may not be the most politically correct films and lack diversity, their impact cannot be ignored.

The Unique Identities of Teenagers

Teens definitely do not fit into boxes. Sometimes, communicating with them may seem exhausting, but it’s important to recognize the importance of their voices.

I love what Dr. Ken Ginsburg had to say about the importance of giving teenagers the ability to be their complete selves.

Think back to your teenage years and all the changes, stretches and questions that came your way. In the midst of high school, adolescent changes, and thinking about “the future”, thoughts like:

“Who am I?”

“Am I normal?”

“Do I fit in?”

“Why do I feel this way?”

and so much more are going through our teenagers’ minds.

He reminded us that our essential role as a parent is to truly know who our children are in all their complexities. This enables us to become their North Star. Why is that important? Well, as they grow and change, they can look back to us for guidance and direction. It helps them realize that we accept, love, and are there for them no matter what. As they navigate the world, we provide them security and worthiness.

How to respond when our teenagers push us away

I can still remember the first few times my then-teenage son didn’t want me in his space. My oldest and I are close. I had him young, and in many ways we “grew up” together. I had no clue what I was doing raising him, and had some amazing women around me that helped as much as they could.

So I was completely flabbergasted that first time I knew he was going through something and put up barriers to keep me from helping.

Of course, it’s normal and expected, but as parents’ it still stings.

Dr. Ken reminded us to lean on the voice in our head, reminding us that our children are pushing us away because they love us so much it hurts. Wait. What? I know, it took me a minute to fully embrace that one.

Here’s the thing: as our teenagers enter adolescence, their mind and bodies are doing what they are genetically wired to do. They are preparing to move on to the next stage of their lives. That stage is puberty. It involves leaving our home, so they can blossom and bloom on their own. There’s something within that says I need to pull away, so I can be prepared to stand on my own with the love, teachings and care that I’ve received from my parents up until this point.

The nest – our homes – becomes unhabitable and rejected so they can fly away. We’ve done such a great job of loving and raising our children that they need to temporarily push us away so they can establish their own footing.

There were so many amazing takeaways from this conversation! You can view more and see other views on Twitter using the hashtag #MollyRingwaldTeenYears.

Michelle D. Garrett is the founder of Divas With A Purpose.

She focuses on sharing resources for being purposely productive; setting personal and professional goals and achieving them through daily action; and successfully running a business while focusing on your mental health. Michelle is a full-time entrepreneur who specializes in teaching female entrepreneurs how to show up consistently in their business – online and off.

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