My daughter is 15 years old and I am worried that she is starting to push away not just from her dad and me but also from some of the beliefs we hold dear. What should we do?
– Concerned about wandering
Dear Concerned about wandering,
This is definitely a sensitive subject and it touches on that very strong need in teens for freedom while at the same time creating a sense of fear in parents. We want our teens to adopt the same belief system and worldview as we have but in all honesty it is impossible to force this on them.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to resist the urge to push. Remember, your child has to dismantle your “components” before he knows whether or not she wants to keep them. So the harder you push your identity, beliefs and opinions on him, the more urgently she will feel compelled to distance himself from those specific things in order to become her own person.
And while not pushing your beliefs and opinions on your teen is something to avoid, living by example is something to pursue. Your kid would probably never be so uncool as to say so, but she is watching your actions closely. And at least some of the stories and life experiences she shares with you (“This guy fudged on his time card…”) will provide opportunities for positive social reference if you’re on the alert.
As you get to know the person your child is becoming, you may notice her hunger for appreciation. Even though we can’t help but notice the negative behaviors, they still need our encouragement and affection. Even though we sometimes feel that giving it is a like hugging a porcupine!
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and teens, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. Learn more about speaking inquiries here.