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Remembering Your Adolescence

A Walk in Their Shoes
Reconnecting with the feelings you experienced during your adolescence can encourage you to walk in your teens' shoes -- because their shoes were once yours. The more you remember and relive those vivid -- and painful -- memories, the more compassionate and understanding a parent you'll be.

When Looks Are Everything

On my first day of junior high school, Danny Schlett (I'll never forget his name!), a loud-mouthed ninth-grader, bumped into me in the corridor. He scrutinized my face from close range and asked in a voice that echoed through the halls, "Hey Kendrick! Have you got the measles?" I barely summoned a humiliated "no" and slunk off to my second-period art class. At that moment, I could not imagine how I could show my acne-ridden, pizza face to one more kid in school, let alone show it to hundreds -- or thousands -- more kids for the next five years I walked those halls.

I hated Danny Schlett, but I hated how I looked even more. Remember how you felt about your appearance when you were a teen and how your body -- especially your face and your hair -- was always capable of conspiring against you at any time? How you looked was everything. It's everything to your teen too.

It's Your Teen's Journey, Not Yours

Sometimes remembering an adolescence that was troubled, abusive, and/or marked by a continuing series of anti-social, illegal, or mean-spirited acts on your part serves to make you less empathetic to your teens' adolescent journey. You become a worried, restrictive, joyless dictator, punishing and trying to control your teens for fear that they will have the same traumatic, unhappy adolescence that you had. While it can be useful to help them with some advice based upon your own adolescent mistakes and confusion, it's unfair to focus your parenting efforts on preventing them or forbidding them from reliving your adolescence. Remember, they are not you. Their teen years are not about you. You had your adolescence, for better or worse. Let them have theirs.

Staying Connected
Remembering how confused, exhilarated, hormonally-charged, lovestruck, embarrassed, conflicted, and scared you felt as a teen will make you more empathetic as you consider your son or daughter's behavior. You can stay connected throughout your child's adolescence by asking yourself the following questions and then discussing them together:

  • What were my biggest problems as a teen? My biggest fears?
  • How did I feel about my looks?
  • What did I do to rebel against my parents?
  • Was I popular? Who was popular and why?
  • What were the toughest grades for me socially? Why?
  • Did any friends ever dump me?
  • Were my parents helpful and understanding during my teen years? What did I need most from them during my adolescence? Did it change as I got older?
  • Did I ever fall in love? How did I feel when we broke up?
  • Did I keep secrets from my parents? Why?
  • So take out your junior-high and high-school yearbooks, sit down with your kids...and talk.

    Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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