A few thoughts on the independence… of your teenager

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By Alexis Rae Baker

Dear Lexis,

My son says he wants to be left alone and avoids family time like it’s the plague. We would still like him to participate in family events, but right now it feels like he is constantly pushing us away. Is there anything you would suggest that might improve the situation?

Thanks,

~Troubled in Lacey

Dear Troubled,

Although this is not necessarily good news, there comes a time in our lives when we feel the need to exercise our independence. And on a day like today, our country’s Independence Day, we can understand why. Just as the United States did 246 years ago, we are all coming to a time when we must go out into the world on our own, however difficult and difficult that may be.

Looks like your son is doing the same thing. As parents, it can be difficult for us to let go of the reins and allow our children to step out of our protective embrace. Sometimes we can even do everything we can to protect our children, including trying to control their behavior.

However, your time as a teacher is largely up now. And while there may still be lessons to be taught in the future, they will differ in their format (consisting largely of questions asked by your son).

Obviously, there are still some logistical problems (family expectations, living conditions, food). Although we should provide our children with the opportunity to be themselves, we generally prefer to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment that they can come back to when life gets a little tough.

So when it comes to these questions, be very clear about what you expect. Consider the worst-case scenarios (often unplanned pregnancies in young people) and figure out what you would do if the worst happened.

For example, while my daughter is still very young, if in the future she comes home pregnant, I would expect her to babysit and care for the baby. I would also expect her to speak with the father and state her own expectations of him. Nothing really requires you to grow up more than a child, and even though high school would be a little early, I expect my children to take responsibility for their actions.

Responsibility can mean different things to different people, I would probably become a very active grandparent (maybe even adopt the baby if needed) while other parents think pregnancy means it’s time to push the baby nest bird. Both are valid options and as parents we have to make our choice.

While I don’t usually tell people to think about worst-case scenarios, knowing what you would do in these intense circumstances can provide a sense of clarity and security that may be lacking right now. You worry that your son will make bad choices, but planning what you would do, if that happens, will help you as your son enters the world.

The time has come to see your son take flight. It may fall many times, such is the nature of learning, but take pride in knowing that you have come this far. Trust that he has the skills to understand this. State your expectations and the consequences if those expectations are not met. He may act a little, but treat him like an adult, with respect, and you’ll both be fine soon enough.

Happy Independence Day and good luck.

~Lexis

Lexis is Alexis Rae Baker. She writes from her home in Olympia. Have a question about life, relationships, spirit? Visit him at lexisrae.com or write to Lexis at [email protected]

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