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Let go and help teens make decisions
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Let go and help teens make decisions

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It is normal for parents to feel some anxiety about their kids’ safety, happiness, and ability to navigate the world around them. However, it can become problematic when a parent is spending large amounts of time second-guessing the choices their children make, which can often lead to being over-involved in everyday decisions. 

All parents want to protect their children from feeling hurt or disappointment, but when a parent’s own anxiety is too high, it could have some unintended negative consequences for teenagers. For the parents who become overly involved, if their kids are unhappy, they might jump in and automatically try to fix things, rather than teaching the skills to help the teen problem solve on their own. If an adolescent is uncertain, it could be easy to mistake this for deep insecurity and shower them with praise and assurance, rather than helping the teen to have a moment of self-discovery. Showing compassion and giving praise are important aspects of parenting and childhood development, but when overdone, these well-meant intentions can backfire by not allowing your child to experience full emotional development. 

As hard as it is to watch our kids feel sadness, disappointment, or even a little bit of their own stress, these are important emotions for kids to feel and to learn from. When children and teens are allowed to make their own choices and deal with consequences of their actions, they are also able to learn healthy decision making, resiliency, self-control and self-advocacy skills. When your child or teen makes a “mistake,” it provides you as parents the opportunity use it as a teachable moment to help them learn about themselves and how to handle tough situations. 

Here are some tips on how to avoid over-worrying and becoming over-involved with your child or teen:

• Let your child take normal, age appropriate risks. With this, some hurt, sadness, or frustration (for your child and you) can occur. Remember, these are important emotions to feel and learn from. 

• Identify what are your worries and what are your child’s. Try to avoid putting your worries and fears on their back. 

• Your child’s successes and failures do not define you and do not determine how good of a parent you are. You are a good parent regardless of the choices your child is making.

• Avoid using statements like “You always….” Or “You never…” Statements like these are making negative predictions about your child. Allow them the opportunity to figure out who they will become. 

• Your teen may not agree with you or do things the way you want them. And this is okay! Give your child permission to have their own thoughts, feelings, and make their own decisions. Remember it is not personal if they don’t want to be exactly like you.

Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ offers a range of services to assist families and adolescents. JFS services address typical adolescent development, assist adolescents exposed to trauma, and aid teens with autism or other learning disorders develop social skills. For more information, contact 973-637-1749 or visit jfsmetrowest.org.

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