The Teen Transition

Notice that right in the middle of our growing experience there's a squeeze point where even if we're on the straight and narrow path of ideal growth, we still pass through BOTH danger zones.

These are the teen years...and this is why they're often so difficult for both parents and teens.

This is the point where normally progressing humans segue from childhood to adulthood.

They may not know everything yet, but they know enough to begin making some of their own decisions...and they should.

Yet one minute they may want to run ahead, seizing independence they're not yet ready to handle, and the next they may be seized by fear.

I've taught many girls caught in the angst of wondering if they'll ever be "enough" (whatever that means).

I've taught teen-aged boys, usually around 16 or 17, who swagger with confidence and ambition but whose eyes resemble a deer in the headlights.

They don't call this phase a "right of passage" for nothing!

We'll get to the "How-To" part in the next section, but I'd like to offer a few comments now for parents of amazing teenagers in transition:

This phase is normal.

If the diagram above is anywhere close to an accurate depiction of our human experience, we all experience points where both our knowledge and our confidence seem mediocre. That situation is bound to cause frustration and present certain dangers.

This phase is necessary.

Again assuming that the diagram above is a reliable representation of normal growth and development, it is impossible to reach the upper right-hand quadrant where knowledge and creative confidence thrive together without first passing through the "teenage tightrope" where risk lies on one side and fear on the other. It may be that in this phase we perfect the balance we will need in the next phase of our journey.

Your teen is as scared as you are.

Personality may affect whether your child approaches this phase with a timid tremor or like a determined daredevil, but most experience moments of self-doubt no matter how they mask it. As terrifying as it may be for us to watch, the transition is even more daunting for the one who's walking the tightrope.

Teens need our support.

Parenting during the transition years involves elements of coaching and cheerleading. We do all we can to increase their knowledge and prepare them for what lies ahead, but at some points the best thing we can do is cheer them on with confidence.