Early teens, which is what I like to call teens that are ages 13-15, are going through such a variety of developmental changes that parents can really help, guide, and encourage. Here are four incredible ways you can help your early teen:
Tell biographies and keep offering up great adult role models. In the past, the years of 13 o 15 was not such a fragile time because the child was so deeply embedded in the family and community with markers of passage into being a young adult. We have now lost many of the markers of passage into the teenaged years and we have at the same time lost so much of the close-knit community and extended generations we used to have so a child knew how to integrate into being a young adult. So, how we meet the child’s need for integration now can come in the form of biography. Young teens will identify with hearing that they are not the only ones who are struggling; they will carry pictures of others who struggled mightily and were brave and who succeeded and offered something to the world.
Help them LET GO. Thirteen to fifteen year olds often rely on half-facts, undigested information and knee-jerk reactions. They often have strong opinions for or against something but even if their idea or opinion is obviously faulty, they cannot seem to let go of it! Help them know it is okay to let go their judgment or opinion and make space for a new idea or opinion.
Help them harmonize. There are a lot of things that feel “off” to early teens in their physical bodies and emotional states in these years. The task is to harmonize things, and the “self” that should help a child control his or her will, such as being able not to eat too much or not play video games compulsively is just not able to do so yet. Offer up healthy boundaries and new challenges that lead the child into being part of the world, not being alienated and separate.
Offer an expanded world. Sometimes early teens get very narrow views of what they will or won’t do, what they do or don’t like, how they want to spend their time. It is up to us, the parents, to stimulate a broader and bigger picture than what the teen is seeing sometimes. We should help our teen take an interest in the world. For those of you that are into Waldorf Education, Steiner spoke quite a bit about this.
How do you help in balance with your early teen?