Inside: Raising teens is challenging, but incorporating gratitude into your parenting can help.
Recently, there was a major intersection near our home under construction.
Workers were taking a four-way stop and turning it into a bridge with an underpass. The area was completely out of operation for nearly a year.
This intersection had been the main route we used to go to all of the best shopping and restaurants. It felt like a major inconvenience to drive instead to a roundabout that was maybe five extra minutes away each time we wanted to go to Costco, Chick-fil-A or Target.
Despite my best efforts, it was difficult not to feel annoyed. I was used to one route, and now anything else was disruptive and irritating.
When you are annoyed, it’s tough even to feel positive about small improvements
After a few months, the intersection was partially opened.
But even then, I was perturbed on my old familiar route listening to jackhammers digging into the concrete as I passed by, getting delayed by oversized trucks dumping concrete, or zig-zagging through an obstacle course of orange cones.
Annoyance. Frustration. Irritation, What a nuisance!
Then, it hit me.
The workers in the construction zone are putting their lives in danger. Not only with the heavy equipment they operate but also dealing with distracted drivers who may not be paying attention.
They must also proceed cautiously, taking meticulous care to follow safety protocols.
Then, miraculously, one day, it all ended, and the intersection was completed. And it was even better than before!
Smooth roads, a faster transition to the neighborhood on the other side of the highway, and better traffic flow.
I could definitely appreciate the new intersection now. Things really had improved.
My annoyance turned to gratitude, and each time I drove through that new road system, I grinned to myself that I was so impatient with the process and just glad it didn’t stay that way forever–even thought it felt like forever at the time.
When we are raising teens, a challenging time can feel like forever, and it can be hard to enjoy the journey
Consider that teenagers are very much like a construction zone.
When you get annoyed with eye-rolling, lack of gratitude, or even grumpiness; remember that their brains and bodies are still under major construction.
These “construction zones” are being built, repaired, or maintained at lightning speed every single day. And often with chaos masked as confidence swirling all around them.
In the thick of the teen years, it can be hard to see the good in your relationship
The teenage years are often a time of stress, anxiety, and confusion.
There are so many different roadmaps and so many complicated routes to take as teens strive to figure out how to be capable humans in an increasingly chaotic and uncertain world.
They are dealing with their own versions of jackhammers with scheduled and unscheduled truckloads of concrete on their old familiar routes as well.
With all the construction going on, what’s the best alternative route? Why isn’t the GPS updating? And where are the guys with orange reflective vests to wave them through?
They need the support of the adults in their life: parents, teachers, and leaders–their very own construction crew.
They need to feel safe to lean on you when times get stressful, and even if they don’t show it, it’s safe to assume the work zone is indeed heavily at play within.
Gratitude can change your relationship with your teen
Oftentimes, parents think their teens are ungrateful because they aren’t specifically saying “thank you” or maybe acting selfish.
Parents, I know you do a lot for your teens that you’d like more gratitude for, and when you experience this, I’d like to ask you to consider this construction zone.
If you want to help your teenager be more grateful, follow these two practices:
- Don’t ever tell them how ungrateful they are. It’s hurtful and shaming and will break trust in your relationship. Not to mention, it will take a hit to their self-esteem.
- Express gratitude TO them and FOR them. When you model gratitude, they learn it the best way.
You can let them know you are grateful for anything, large or small. Examples you can say to your teen today:
“I’m so grateful you love (xyz) so much, and I love seeing how much you enjoy it.”
“I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for the person that you are, the kindness that you show to people, and seeing your heart of gold.”
“Thank you so much for taking the trash out (even after asking 10 times) it really helps to keep our kitchen organized.”
There’s always something to be grateful for, dig deep if you have to. This practice of gratitude TO your teen will also help soften your heart toward them and their learning process.
Teens care about our opinion of them more than we believe
They don’t want to disappoint you as their parents, and sometimes they feel they already have with the incessant pointed questions and looks of disapproval.
What’s even worse is that you may not know all of this is going on inside their heads.
But if you can be patient, ride it out, and return exasperation with validation and understanding, you will see that construction zones eventually turn into something remarkable.
They need you to SLOW DOWN when you arrive on the scene with unexpected lane closures and unexplained detours so that you can carefully tread past the roadwork.
So next time they ignore you, roll their eyes, or don’t take out the trash after you’ve asked ten times, when you feel like you have to repeat yourself a million times, remember that their brains and bodies are under major construction.
This is a contributed post by Kristen Duke. Grab her free Intentional Connection Playbook.
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
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