When a child starts to hit the teenage years, their body starts to erupt into maturity, but their mind does not necessarily follow. In fact, studies have found that children’s brains at this stage seem to regress to an earlier stage, which is actually a kind of foggy limbo, making space for the big jump into abstract reasoning, independent decision-making. But they are not there yet. Like toddlers, they run off all legs to explore the big world, but run back to home base desperate for a structure and holding for their new found abilities. They are terrified that they don’t have it all together. They are terrified they will be laughed out of the playpen or the lay pen, as the case may be.
Enter the parent. Okay, this is hard because you’ve been working so hard and long to support this growing adulthood you’re sure the pushing away that you’re getting from them is personal, suddenly your kid hates you. No, they’ve hated you all along. Oh, gosh: kidding!! It’s been an ambivalent relationship for a long time: love-hate balanced most of the time. Now, it’s just that you embarrass them, right? They really want to pretend that they’re all grown up Now, and you’re cramping their style. You bet you are!
Do not try to be your child’s friend here. If you need a friend, go somewhere else! Actually, having a support system and a good friend is really important as the parent of a teen or pre-teen. Now is the time to get that writers group, book club, or Empatharian team going. That doesn’t mean you can’t also be friends with your teen, but the most important thing they need you for is Parenting. That means boundaries. And sometimes it just sucks to be that policeman.
Friendly conversations are great, and can be persuasive. Being a policeman with punishments and yelling, usually your teen will just tune you out and continue his acting out behind your back. However, if you’ve established some rules and boundaries while your kids were younger, then keep it up! Weekly meetings, family dinners, politeness, norms of communication. These are life rafts for your kids, and for you. If you haven’t ever done these rituals with your family, it’s really never too late to start!
Your role here is not Judge, it’s Attorney for the Defense. The defense of your child. The defense of the adult you know they can be. Prosecutors,real and imagined, abound in this rite of passage of adolescence:
• Sex, Gender, Homophobia, Racism…
• Values, Religion, cults and belonging
• Bullying, Being a Victim, Name-calling
• Communication, Friendship, Loyalty, Choosing a boyfriend/girlfriend.
• Stress reduction, expressing emotions, getting creative
• Self-Defense physically and psychically
• School and Career for their best self-expression and happiness, long term!
• Balancing a check book, doing laundry, shopping for clothing, food, etc., growing and foraging for edible plants, hunting, using a car for self-defense (defensive driving).
*Empatharian Movement for Peace
The Empatharian Movement for Peace is creating a Peace Arts Academy for Teenagers as well. Within the Peace Arts Academy, a lot of the above subjects would be covered, taught, discussed, and expressed. In addition your teens will have presence: a mindfulness that comes from doing a movement meditation practice that helps embodiment of key values, as well as allowing the full spiritual expression of the search for purpose and meaning that is also a part of this rite of passage.
Growing bodies becoming gangling and awkward will be sculpted with a movement practice that allows for grace and agility, strength and intensity. Without judgement or competition, the trainers will nurture their individual expression and self-esteem. And their achievements completing the exercises will be rewarded with Sashes that represent Ranks in Empatharian Peace Arts Training (EPAT).
Empathy and its expression will bring achievement in EPAT, starting with the purple sash and t-shirt of the Junior Core-Us level, and going through 5 more levels to reach the adult level. Each level requires 6-18 months of regular practice, and includes art improvisations, journaled processes, and talking circles with other teens and a trained adult facilitator. Social skills can grow, and authentic conversations happen. Talking about the risk-taking behaviors that so many indulge in, and exploring real life consequences, may prevent poor judgement and promote good judgement at this crucial time.
Giving your teens the opportunity to excel in EPAT will be a huge expression of your love and faith that they have the spine for leadership of our world. Empatharian Peace Arts Training is the greatest leadership training program ever created: training and cultivating the most important leadership skills of our time- Empathy skills. Look for our upcoming programs starting in the summer of 2021, and reserve a space now!