If you have ever surfed or even swum in the ocean, you will know that there is that zone between the shore and the calm water at the back of the breakers which is difficult to get through. It is often turbulent and the white wash just keeps pounding you! On a big day, it’s always a relief when you finally make it out the back and can have a rest. Your arms are tired and you are quite relieved as you have conquered those freak sets that seemed to just keep coming just as you paddled out!

For many parents/carers, adolescence can be a bit like this – a turbulent period where emotions can run high and the “freak sets” just keep coming…just at those times when you think you’ve finally “made it out the back”! The “waters” seem calm and you can take a breath, then out of nowhere, here it comes! You get “that phone call” from the school or you find suspicious green vegetation in the pockets of your teenager’s jeans. It just keeps coming and you wonder if it will ever stop. You are exhausted from work and having to keep on top of things at home.

Well, to continue the surfing analogy, there is a great quote that says: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” So how do we do this? How do we get to the point of just accepting that adolescence is a turbulent period and that we can learn to stay afloat – or even swim along with it and enjoy the ride?

Perhaps we need to change our thinking and adopt a different paradigm?

Kahil Gibran offers us this advice…

Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.

Many of us who have teenagers or young adults as children, we probably came through a generation where our parents were big on control and saw it as their job to dictate to us how we are supposed to be. For instance, my dad always told me how I should vote! How would we go dictating such things to our young people today? Thankfully, many are very good at expressing their views and formulating their own opinions. This can sometimes look like “turbulence”, but perhaps it is a reflection of evolution? Are we shifting away from the parenting model of ownership or possession, and tending towards a more “free range” model? For many of us, we struggle to deal with this concept. My father’s words again ring in my ears…”as long as you live under my roof…!”

How can we as parents/carers challenge our own perceptions of what it is to be a parent/carer? How do we subtly or inadvertently try to make them clones of ourselves? How might we try to determine their thoughts rather than nurture their innate tendencies to want to figure it out themselves?

Richard Rohr says “You learn to recover from falling – by falling.” How often do we try to prevent our kids from falling? Our natural inclination is to stop them making mistakes or getting hurt…but are we stifling their growth by doing this?

In the end, it comes down to choice. Do we choose the difficult path of trying to calm the turbulence – a seemingly impossible task! Or do we learn to go with the flow, offering gentle guidance to our young people as they try to figure out who they truly are?

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