Having a child means wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life. It means you’ll feel every feeling they do, only more, and that gets exhausting and scary. The solution: keep them away from bad influences and anything that falls outside your value system or beliefs.

Where does one buy enough bubble wrap for a 5’10” teen?

Teenage brains are wired for risk taking. They lack emotional regulation, impulse control, and therefore some of the critical thinking to understand impact and consequences. That’s a normal part of adolescent brain development that DOES NOT mean they lack intelligence! In fact, the teen brain is wired to learn new skills and ideas faster than adults so don’t write them off as incapable just yet.

It is primal to want to protect your child and completely normal, especially when you see the danger coming because of you eagle vision is more attuned than theirs. Preventing is even better because it saves the emotional discomfort and doesn’t leave any decision making up to your teen’s undeveloped prefrontal cortex.

This would be a reasonable mindset if you planned on moving out with your teen, attending college or university with them, going to work with them and being the 3rd wheel in all their relationships. Basically, attached at the hip.

Not likely. 🙄

That short-term mind set of dealing with each challenge separately set ups the need for long-term interventions, not to mention higher anxiety and lower confidence and self-esteem for your teen. Parenting is a long-term game that requires you to breathe, own and process your feelings without projecting them on your teen, and step back as they learn. Harder said than done, I know.

So, just throw my teens to the wolves and let them do whatever?!

No. There’s a middle ground between overbearing and controlling and permissive, do what you want parenting where your teen learns to protect themselves over a lifetime, even if they don’t do it perfectly (AKA the way you’d like).

You build healthier relationship with your teen because they don’t feel so micromanaged, incapable, or a like a failure. Instead, they believe you trust their judgement which increases confidence, self-esteem and resilience. They respect your input and boundaries even when they don’t agree, and tell you about sketchy things instead of hiding them and turning to peers for advice.

Equipping and empowering your teen is the magic of the long-term game.

It’s starts with conversations, not control. Frequent, short or long conversations about ALL the uncomfortable topics your parents likely didn’t talk to you about. These are NOT lectures because listening is more important; hearing your teen’s thoughts and beliefs they’ll base their behaviour on. Did I mention taking some deep breaths?

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Imagine you’re giving your teen a tool belt.

First, show them the tool belt, all the pockets, features, how to wear it and why. Then start showing your teen the types of tools that can go in that tool belt, how you hold each tool, how you use it, for what and why.

Tell your teen how you got your tool belt, and some of your ups and downs with it. By sharing your messes and successes your teen sees you as a relatable person, not just an authority figure. What worked for you? What didn’t? What did you learn and do differently (or wish was different)?

Now it’s their turn.

Empowering your teen means letting them on the construction site to use what you gave them. It might be scary, messy and they won’t get it perfect. This is a long-term game, remember? Step in with support then they ask but do it without taking the tools from their hands and finishing the job yourself as they watch. Stand beside them, talk it over, ask questions and let them know you believe in them and they do the work.

Frequent check-in conversations about what your teen is seeing and learning while keeping a focus on listening to their developing values and beliefs supports their strategic thinking and critical decision-making process. Stay clear of judging things as right or wrong, being curious instead.

“Are your friends dating yet? What do you think of that?”

“What do you think of drinking and bush parties?”

“Why? Why not? How come?”

“What about drinking and driving?”

“I noticed some kids vaping the other day, what do you think about it?”

“I see a lot of kids are using weed for stress or anxiety. Do you see that too?”

“Sometimes I worry about cyber bullying. Have you seen it going on? What would you do?”

When your teen is stepping out into a new situation, ask open-ended questions.

“What’s a best/worst case scenario?”

“What’s your plan to get home safely?”

“If you were me, what might you do? What do you think would work or is reasonable?”

The bottom line.

You can’t control your teen and trying to will make things much worse. Just because you birth or raise your teen doesn’t mean they’re going to have the same beliefs or values as you.

The best and proven way to protect your teen is a connected relationship with frequent conversations that equip and empower them to understand the dangers and make informed choices when faced with difficult situations.

If this sounds simple but feels hard or complicated, join my FREE masterclass below and learn my 3 pillars for creating an honest, connected relationship that lasts a lifetime, WITHOUT having to be a perfect parent.