Independence and Communication

Parent and teen communication can get testy and it’s no different here.  In our case, it often pertains to questions regarding independence since what one side thinks isn’t what the other side thinks.  There has to be a balance between the two – the teen being allowed to make independent decisions and the parent having some sense that things aren’t entirely out of control.

My wife and I try to provide latitude since the only way that kids learn to handle independence is to actually have some of it.  Our expectation lies in the details: 

  • Where and when?
  • Who are you traveling with and who else is there?
  • What adults are there to supervise, quaint as that sounds?
  • Is there a purpose for the event, such as cast/graduation/sweet 16 party, jam session?
  • Who’s doing the driving?
  • If we agree and there are any changes in plans, then contact us to clarify again.  Changes in circumstances can also change responses.

This last point about changes in plans sounds simple and it really should be.  Except that teens also lack judgment and in their minds, permission given is final.  So what if the get-together is now moving more than twenty miles away, to be held at Jack’s house?  Jack apparently has no last name and is only known by his attendance at Catholic High, hence Jack Catholic.  You said that I could and I can handle myself anyway.  No, I don’t where he lives but I can always follow someone else…  This mistaken presumption leads to surprise on the parents’ part and if the response isn’t handled gently – not always a harried parent’s strong suit – it’s met by wounded pride and testiness.  Events then proceed to roll downhill to mutual silence and quiet anger.

I have no surefire, easy way to handle circumstances like these.  It’s not easy to consistently stay mellow, but one has to try.  The only other avenue is to follow the encounter with a later, gentler conversation that tries to make things right.  After these repeated encounters, there will hopefully be a reasonable "meeting of the minds" to help maintain the family peace.


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