Just like a parachute slows down momentum by acting against the gravitational pull on a falling parachutist, boundaries help teenagers emerge into the adult world, but gradually. The teenage years are surely tricky for both parents and adolescents; they are years of great changes in all spheres of their lives. So, it is only natural for teenagers to increasingly assert their independence and to constantly strive to push their limits. However, whether they like it or not, they still need clearly defined parameters within which they can feel secure to try new experiences, and to sample what the world has to offer.
If it were up to them, teenagers would attempt the leap overnight. Yet, it is important for parents to control the rate of change, based on their assessment of their teenager’s maturity, rather than merely his or her age. Parents must know their children even better than the latter know themselves, and they should base their decisions on this awareness. Parents cannot simply go with the flow, and they should not be over-influenced by what other parents might be doing.
There are many trends, but certainly not all are right for our teenagers. It goes without saying that boundaries need to be reasonable and acceptable to both parents and youngsters alike. There has to be a degree of respect and tolerance on both sides. Teenagers will still rebel and object strongly, but parents must lovingly explain to them that they will progressively earn more trust and greater freedom.
Clear boundaries that have been agreed upon by both parties also help to reduce conflict and improve communication. It is critical that both sides understand what is approved and what is absolutely forbidden. Such limits allow parents to remain vigilant and for their part, teens become aware that they need to prove themselves, in order to earn their parents’ trust.
Teenagers must be able to count on their parents, irrespective of the situation. Whereas friends may change, parents are irreplaceable. Keeping open channels of communication is therefore imperative. Our sons and daughters need strong guidance and reassurance from us. As parents, we must constantly show them unconditional love and be their safe haven in their time of need. They must feel secure in the knowledge that their long-term happiness and well-being is of utmost importance to us.
During this phase, they will test us continually. Nevertheless, we must hang in there no matter how tiring and unnerving it gets. Only through this process will our children internalise the rules of life and grow into responsible adults. Despite their remonstrations, if they have no guidelines or boundaries, they would actually feel very lost and insecure.