As parents, so often, our primary goal is…
- to solve the problem
- to give the advice
- to take away the hurt
- to say the words that will make it better
- to do the thing that will make it better
- to find the specialist that might make it better
and that’s exactly what I want to do. I WANT to make it better. And this urge, this drive to want to make it better, is the #1 reason we often feel so exhausted as parents. We find ourselves here often, don’t we? In this place of desperately wanting to fix the things that seem to need fixing. Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, we can’t always help. In fact, sometimes, even in trying to improve the situation, we make it worse.
When we see our child struggling, our natural inclination is to offer advice, and when that doesn’t work, we nag and then micromanage and then ultimately obsess over the issue. We imagine every worst-case scenario and ultimately wind up completely depleted from the storm brewing within us. And where are they in all of this? They are in the exact same place we found them when it all started.
But the idea of somehow letting go of this need that we have to help just doesn’t make any sense. If you’re wondering right now how a parent even begins the process of learning how to let go of control, you’re not the only one.
Parenting teens is tough, and one of the reasons it’s so difficult is that we’ve been responsible for every area of their lives until now. We were the ones who established the routines. We planned the activities. We’ve had the majority of the control. Now, we see that control dwindling, and as it leaves, it seems to be taking our energy with it; If we aren’t careful, our relationship with our child may follow it as well.
Our role as a parent starts to shift a little during this time. The role we play is still very important but in a different way. This new way requires new things from us. New ways of looking at our children as they strive for independence. New ways of responding to the challenges, which these days, seem to be popping up once a day like an unrelenting game of whack-a-mole.
In Episode 20 of our podcast Parenting Teens Through the Hard, I discuss the Backpack Principle, which clarifies what it looks like to detach lovingly. I’ve been practicing it for a couple of weeks, and it’s been a game-changer. Listen to the episode, The Number #1 Reason You are Exhausted to learn more about the new way I’ve been looking at things and how this small shift in my thinking has helped me feel less stressed and has freed up energy that I can apply to other areas which are actually helping my relationship with my teen.