Anyone who is or has raised teenagers can attest to the fact that parenting teens can be a stressful situation When it comes to stress management and burnout recovery, dealing with ungrateful teenagers is certainly something that can promote stress!
Someone asked me the other day, how do I not build up resentment dealing with teens? As a mother of teenage twins, and also having fostered and counselled countless teens over the years, I feel inspired to delve into this.
From muttering under their breath, not saying “thank you” when it’s appropriate, not accepting “no” for an answer, the list goes on with regard to what we parents of adolescents deal with!
We have known for sometime that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25, even though we have all of our grey matter by the time we are 12, which includes neutrons, cell bodies, nerve fibres and support cells. But it takes another DECADE for all of that matter to be fully wired-up in a process called Neuromaturation. Scientists believe this process is one of the reasons for some common teenage behaviours, like increased risk-taking, a lack of regard for consequences, and needing to be accepted by their peers. I like to think of it like the teenage brain is “under construction” so-to-speak. The brain is especially under construction in the pre-frontal cortex, the last area of the brain to develop, which is responsible for things like self control, goal setting, motivation, planning and understanding consequences. This partly explains some of the behaviours and attitudes we see from teenagers.
“Adolescence is characterized by making risky decisions. Early lesion and neuroimaging studies in adults pointed to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and related structures as having a key role in decision-making.” (Blakemore 2012)
So as you can see, some of the things we see with our teenagers is actually developmentally appropriate. But no matter how often we remind ourselves of this fact, as parents we can easily become resentful as children of all ages often show little appreciation for our life-long selfless commitment and sacrifices on their behalf. Am I right?
Luckily, I have developed a strategy for coping with this rampant under-appreciation and to prevent resentment from rearing it’s ugliness. I use this strategy in a way that honours the mother that resides deep in my being, and it involves time travel.
With every loving act that may not be well received or appreciated, instead of pulling back from the said act, I lean into it with greater love and an open heart-centre. If I have trouble, I travel briefly to the future. Yes the FUTURE.
Do you believe in time travel? You may not believe in time travel as depicted in the movies, in a beam-me-up-scotty kind of way, but in fact I believe time travel is already here and has always been here.
What do I mean? I mean that I travel, not in physical body but in consciousness. You actually already do this to a greater or lesser degree in some respects everyday. You make choices that honour the future-you everyday. Maybe you have a super-greens salad or practice yoga, you attend fitness classes, or maybe learn new skills and concepts. All of this you do for the you that is yet to come. You do so many things that seek to shape the future, and perhaps you even sit in meditation creating and recreating the future you with intricate detail and intention. In a similar vein, I time travel for my children.
I travel to the future where I envision the children I have raised are grown. I see them as adults being the loving and kind beings I already know them to be, I see them contributing to the world in a meaningful way, I see these images of the future with intense pride and I know that these acts in this moment- in this very time and space continuum- have contributed fully to the wonder that I know exists in the future. I know it exists because I travelled there with my consciousness, and to some extent I am creating the future with my intentions and choices, as we all do on a daily basis.
I serve that future being that is my daughter. As she walks the earth, I serve the mother she may one day become, knowing these selfless acts contributed to her in the most meaningful way, and if she never sees it, that’s ok because I do, I see it in my travels. I do not serve the ungrateful, disrespectful moments that exist; in those moments I remind myself that those parts of adolescence are developmentally appropriate – just in a similar way that when my 2 year old would get into the lotion that I accidentally left within arms reach and spread it everywhere, I didn’t stop serving him in that moment. Why? Because I knew that this act was developmentally on-point and I continued to serve the future him.
Serve your teenagers, they need you, and you make a difference to the world when you do. Love them unconditionally, know that it’s not their job to appreciate you, it’s not their job to notice you.
Parenting has the capacity to change the world as we know it. You breathe life into the children you serve and that breath has ripple effects throughout the future. Your contributions can be felt for millennia.
“The Teenage Brain: Under Construction.” American College of Pediatricians, 15 May 2017, http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/parenting-issues/the-teenage-brain-under-construction.
Blakemore, Sarah-Jayne, and Trevor W Robbins. “Decision-Making in the Adolescent Brain.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 28 Aug. 2012, http://www.nature.com/articles/nn.3177.