Archive for ‘Adolescence’

March 6, 2013

Truth is…Raising Kids today is a Challenge

FamBrid_0251That’s the plain truth according to parents from the Chicagoland area. Whether raising an infant, toddler, preteen, or teenager, the role of a parent or caretaker has become a much more complicated task. Dealing with issues like tantrums, long working hours, technology-absorbed children and adults, teens that think they know it all, and the increasing loss of values, many times parents find themselves wanting to escape from the task at hand. But even then, most parents are willing to face the challenge of raising their children, with everything that comes with it.  No matter what, the love for their children makes parents want to take on this Love Challenge!

We went out and asked real parents and caretakers two questions: What is the biggest challenge of being a parent? And, What is the best part of it?

This is what they had to say, and I’m sure we’ll all be able to relate to at least one of them.

Many parents can feel overwhelmed by what they see as their responsibility to their community. Take for instance Juana who says: “Being a parent is a challenging task. We have to raise kids which are going to be a part of our society in a positive way.”  Maria also expressed: “If only they came with a manual. Our job (as parents) is not just sending them to school and feeding them, our role as parents goes way beyond that.”

Others tackle the daily learning experience of the “new parent” and the effect it can have in the marriage relationship. Luz shared: “It’s not easy. (It’s) fun but stressful, joyful, and each day brings a new challenge that sometimes goes beyond just the kids, but also into our marriage. This is the hardest career one can have because of the many surprises that will come with it.” She encourages parents, “Do the best you can to enjoy your children and show them your love.”

Others deal with matters of the mind and heart of independent and outspoken teenagers. Juan says: “One of my biggest challenges is being (very) patient, especially when they think they know everything.  It’s hard!  But at the same time it’s beautiful because God gave us the privilege of being parents to our kids and to guide them the best way possible.”  While many, and I mean many, deal with the “busy lifestyle” and the fact that technology has come to reshape the way we live and interact with each other.  Catalina said this about her biggest challenge: “Playing catch-up with our own children due to our busy lives. As well as making sure to engage with the kids in this technological world! No iPad, iPod, cell, text, Netflix, Wii, leapfrog or anything else!”  Ana shares a similar view: “It’s very difficult with a 15 yr old and a 12 year old and today’s technology. I wonder what awaits me with my youngest kids who are 4 and 1 yrs old.”

Elizabeth brought up another important view: “(Raising kids) is a blessing. There are so many kids being raised by grandparents, relatives or society and not by parents.”

Benny shared a challenge that many face, “The most challenging for me as a single mom in this economy, is the amount of time I spend away from my boy working everyday crazy hours to bring enough (money) home to pay the rent and cover the bills. But the best is when at the end of the day I get hugs, kisses and ‘I love you’ from my precious angel.”

Another challenge parents expressed was when it comes to beliefs and values. This is what Esmeralda had to say: “Being able to adapt your morals to today’s changing world/society; being able to raise your children to be open-minded and respectful of others while teaching them to be firm in their beliefs and have some kind of spirituality in this many times Godless world. The best part is, knowing you are raising adults with empathy, who will be productive, happy members of society. That’s my goal at least.”

Karina mentioned another challenge: “Setting a good example.” Susana supported that statement saying: “It’s impressive how they learn from our own actions. Parents, let’s set a good example because they’re watching us.”

Juan shared something that seemed to resonate with most parents: “We weren’t born knowing how to be parents, but that was the challenge we accepted when we decided to become parents. It’s a wonderful blessing.” Rayo summed it up to: “It’s difficult, crazy! But I wouldn’t change it.”

In conclusion, being a parent is definitely an every day challenge.  It’s not an easy task, and there is no such thing as the perfect parent.  But we can all learn and strive to be better parents! There are no manuals, but there are tools available to us. So take on the challenge and invest in who matters most.

If you’re up to the challenge, we invite you to participate in our Love Challenge Family Conference on Saturday April 27 from 9am to 3pm, at Carpentersville Middle School in Carpentersville, IL.  Enjoy a day of fun and learning with engaging speakers, dynamic workshops, games, food, and much more! There are separate activities for teens, children, single adults, parents, and couples.  Admission is FREE, with tickets you can get by registering at www.familybridgeschicago.org or 877-412.7434. The conference is delivered in both English and Spanish.

Enrich the relationship with your spouse, family, and community.  At the end of the day, it’s what really matters!

March 29, 2011

The Role of Parents Raising Teenage Children: When to Hold on and When to Let Go

Contributed by Jeremy Moeggenberg, MA

As a therapist working with many adolescents, I have seen the spectrum of problems that families can run across when roles are not well defined.  Many of the adolescents that I see are having problems at school and/or at home, are having issues related to drug or alcohol use, or their parents feel that they can no longer “control” them as they mature into young adults.  Many parents wait until the problems facing their family are so dire that they are ready to throw their hands in the air and give up.  The most common set of instructions I get from parents is to “find out what is going on with my child and fix it”.

The most common problem I have seen is parent’s confusion as to what roles they should play during adolescence. Some parents feel like adolescence is a time to reign in their child and protect them from the dangers of sex, alcohol and violence.  These parents typically take an authoritarian role in the lives of their children, setting at times unfair or unrealistic boundaries and working under the idea that, at this age, children need a parent and not a friend.  The downfall with this approach is that it assumes that parents can always protect their children from life and, if they can keep them in this protective cocoon for long enough, their children will eventually come out the better for it.  Like all individuals, however, adolescents must learn not only from the knowledge of their elders but also through their own mistakes.

I have also seen the complete opposite, where parents take a completely hands-off approach to parenting and begin to see their adolescent children as friends.  I can recall a myriad of stories about parents who would let their children drink if they did so safely at home, or who would extend a curfew provided that their children maintained passing grades at school.  In short, these parents did not set boundaries because they wanted their children to like them  – they often confused the idea of being liked by their children and being respected by their children. 

A few months back, one of my mentors gave me the best description of the role of a parent during the adolescent years.  Being the father of teenagers himself, he explained that he felt the role of a parent during a child’s teenage years should be somewhere between parent and advisor.  The idea is that children would have limits on their behaviors, such as curfews and check-ins; would attend family functions, such as family meals and activities on occasion; but would also feel safe to run ideas past their parents on advice on life.  After all, isn’t part of adolescence learning to think for oneself and growing into an individual while doing so in the safety of a secure environment? 

I’ve found that teenagers raised by authoritarian parents will often rebel and do what they please, or will enter into a state of learned helplessness where they just stop trying to make choices for themselves.  These are also those who will still explore their own individuality, just later down the road at college or on their own when their parents are far behind them.  On the opposite side of the coin, the teenage children of permissive parents will tend to make choices that they are not completely informed of or ready for.  These teens may experiment sexually, with substances or make other poor choices for their age range.  They will also most likely be the teens that will throw out the dreaded “I hate you!” and not respond when their parents finally do try to set down limits. 

The best analogy that I have heard regarding parenting is as follows: when children reach their early to mid teenage years they effectively “fire” their parents and begin to explore their own individuality.  If parents are able to watch over their children and allow them to fail at times when it is not going to result in catastrophic consequences their teenagers will bring them back as advisors and accept feedback and suggestions while still making their own choices.  The role of teens in this scenario is to seek their own identity and create their own value system.  The role of parents would be to still set limits but to more carefully choose their battles forming hard lines against activities or choices that could be dangerous for their teens while still allowing their adolescent to make choices on more minor items at first and building more trust and freedom as they make better decisions and grow older.  Teenagers, like almost all adults that I have encountered, are better at accepting advice than orders. 

The overall goal of adolescence is for teenagers to find their own personal identities and values.  While this is difficult for many parents to handle it is a necessary part of growing up.  By choosing battles and acting as advisors, parents have the ability to shape the path their teens follow but not control it completely.  The end goal of adolescence is to form an individual who shares the standards and principals of their parents, but who is not an exact clone either.

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