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In 2022, Be a Better Parent!

Posted on 01/03/2022, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 7th and 8th Graders, Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders, Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)

Looking back to the time when my kids were teens, I remember it as being exhilarating, exasperating, and exhausting - all at the same time. When you're in the thick of parenting adolescents, you often lack the time and emotional distance to reflect on what you're doing, but if I could turn back the clock to those days, here’s the advice I’d give myself to be a better parent.

Be Positive

I am a dentophobe; I dread and fear going to the dentist! However, just before the pandemic, I achieved a personal best in dental compliance; for the first time ever I reported for my routine check-up at the recommended six month interval. Imagine my disappointment when the hygienist’s first words upon looking into my mouth were that there appeared to be more tartar than usual!

Perhaps my hygienist felt that her professional responsibility required conveying to me the hazards of tartar build-up, but the message would have been better received had she started by congratulating me on the timeliness of my appointment. In their interactions with other adults, most parents understand the need to tread carefully when giving constructive criticism. While collaborating with a co-worker on a project, they know better than to open the conversation with a critique of their associate’s work, yet when interacting with their teenagers, many adults do just that. I know I did. Caught up in the press of managing a household with four busy kids, I often didn’t take the time to praise all the things they did right before zeroing in on the areas that needed improvement. Now more than ever, as we soldier through our second year of pandemic, we can all use some extra positivity!

Be Patient

Along the same lines, it’s easy for busy parents to become impatient with teens. On a day-to-day basis, parents chafe at the time adolescents take to get ready for school, finish a simple homework assignment, or write a college essay. Many parents also experience frustration when high school - and even college - kids seem clueless about the career field they want to pursue.

It's natural for parents to want to see their kids settled - and self-supporting. Toward that end, encourage your teen to begin thinking about career possibilities, but discourage him/her from deciding on one highly specific area. For example, when a fifteen-year-old who has yet to take calculus or physics is certain she's destined to be an aeronautical engineer, I think it's time to pump the brakes a bit and encourage her to remain open to alternative fields. Young people today seem to be taking more time to make a final career choice. It's not uncommon for twenty-somethings to spend the first few years after college sampling a variety of different options before selecting one to pursue seriously, and in my view, such time, if spent in a sincere effort to identify one's life work, is well spent. 

Be Progressive

Suppose you were planning a trip to an exotic locale and weren’t sure where to stay, what clothes to pack, or what activities to book. If you discovered that your neighbor had made the same trip 25 years ago, how much credence would you give to his advice? While you might value his recommendation to visit a famous museum, you’d probably take his advice about where to eat with a grain of salt. After all, things change in 25 years.

In the same vein, keep in mind that as your kids embark on their journey to adulthood, things have changed since you trod the path. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching my own kids progress through their teens and twenties it’s that the world is a far different place than it was when I was young. So while age and experience equip parents to give sound advice based on general principles, it’s wise to recognize that culture and customs evolve, and to defer to the kids on some areas, particularly those that involve navigating modern technology and media.

Being open-minded and forward-thinking is not only good for our kids; it’s good for parents as well. Thanks to our kids, my husband and I have progressed from quarter pounders to whole foods, from Blockbuster DVDs to streaming Apple TV, and from voicemail to texting. In short, our kids have dragged us into the modern world and made our lives a lot more interesting. If you let them, yours will do the same for you. 

Happy New Year – hope it will be a great one!

(Adapted from my 2015 New Year's post)

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Posted on 01/03/2022, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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