We will all get to the point in life that we must let our children go. Most times that comes when they leave home after graduating high school. I have learned recently, that letting go doesn’t look the same way for all teens because they aren’t all built the same. My middle child is a brilliantly funny, and beautifully temperamental free-bird. Her perspective on life is that she’s pretty much got it under control and she needs to be free. In the last few months, this by-the-book mom has really had to do some self-reflecting and gain some valuable insight on how to best lead her to become the best free-bird that she can be. This is what I have learned.
Kids need boundaries, especially when they become teenagers. Free-birds though, also need to feel like they have space. They want to live life like the bird, free to fly whenever and wherever. They don’t want to be caged like a pet bird. We have to set boundaries for them though, remembering that the teen species can talk, think, and is highly opinionated. For this reason, we must set boundaries creatively. First, have an idea of your non-negotiables. Next, sit down with your teen and allow them to share what they believe to be reasonable boundaries. When you do this, you are giving them space to fly and allowing them to think critically about their own lives. After listening to your teen, create your boundaries, taking their ideas into consideration. This way, they know, that you are the parent and carry the weight of responsibility for their life now and into early adulthood. This will also give your free-bird the confidence to learn, grow, and explore with a cushion underneath. The benefit for us as parents is that our teens will likely be more responsive to our parenting.
Teach them to Fly
Raising a free-bird is scary. In their minds, they have life all figured out, but brick walls come with that attitude. I don’t want my beautiful girl to fly into any brick walls, so I have to teach her to fly safely. I am a mama bear to the core. Lately, though, I have had to understand that the cubs eventually go off on their own. While they are with the mama bear, she is giving them the skills to navigate life, then she releases them to life on their own. Fellow mama bears of free birds, we have no choice. We must let them go. So while they are in our care, we must work well with them, and teach them how to fly. Embrace their personalities — even the parts that you don’t necessarily like. And, stop being so critical (I have said that to myself repeatedly)! Give your teen opportunities to be and feel free. I determined within myself that I want a free bird who loves to come back to the nest once she leaves, not one who rebels against the nest and never wants to come back.
Don’t be the person on the phone, dominating the conversation, not allowing your teen to get a word in edgewise. At some point, they will stop listening. As a mom, I always want to be the voice inside of my children’s heads. That won’t happen if they stop listening to me. Communication is a two way street in every relationship. The one with our teens is no different. If I could scream it from the mountain top, I would scream, ALLOW THEM TO TALK and LISTEN TO THEM!!!! Explain your reasoning to them. Don’t leave them guessing. If you do, their guess will be that your reasoning is stupid! Teenagers have valuable insight into their lives. After all, isn’t that what we want? Communicate effectively with them and they will communicate effectively with you.
Remember, free-bird teens truly want us to be proud of them, they just need to feel like they are in charge of their life. As a parent, I constantly have to remember my end goal to raise dynamic adults. My free-bird will not be dynamic if I set rigid rules, keep her in a cage, and adopt a “my way or the highway” mindset. She will choose the highway or be so bound by my rigidity that it stunts her growth. If you do nothing else, take this rule-followers advice for raising a free-bird: be a parent (set boundaries), live as if you were a true mama bear (teach them to fly), and LISTEN (communicate well). Life won’t be perfect, you’ll still have hiccups, but your free bird will flourish.