All teenagers face difficult struggles during their years in high school. These struggles include developing their own identities as emerging adults, the stress of academics, navigating relationships with peers and romantic partners, evolving relationships with family members, and determining the role that faith will play in their lives. The test for us as parents is in determining how we should help our teenagers through this process. Too much pressure and too much involvement can be a formula for resentment, or a young adult who is incapable of self-direction. Too little direction and involvement, and we risk raising a child who has squandered opportunities, and been more influenced by external forces than his or her own family. In the end, we must take a balanced approach to raising our children while they are in high school. We must choose when to use our authority, and when to let go. We must also accept that no matter which path we take in any given situation, pain will be felt.
It's tempting to tell other parents when to exert their authority, and when to let their teenagers make and learn from their own mistakes. Unfortunately, this kind of advice would only be useful in a world inhabited by cookie cutter families all sharing the same values and histories. Try to feel when your kids feelings and to catch all their signs. In the end, deciding what is and isn't negotiable is up to each family.
Determining What is Not Negotiable
Let's begin with the assumption that illegal, violent, disrespectful, or potentially physically dangerous (with exception of some sports) activities are going to be non-negotiable in functional families. So, what about the other stuff? How do parents determine when they are going to take a firm stand? This process involves determining what is important to the family as a whole, and what is likely to have the largest impact on the specific child's future. Please keep the word specific in mind, because the distinction matters.
When parents are determining whether or not they should take a firm stance with their high school aged child, they may wish to stop and ask themselves a few questions:
Will my teenager suffer from long term harm if I let him/her make their own decisions about this?
Are there more benefits to my teen suffering the natural consequences of his or her actions than there are to my teen being forced to follow my directives?
Why is this issue really important to me?
Is this issue worth the tensions it may cause in the immediate future?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It is just a good idea for parents to examine their own motives, and to understand that exerting their authority can have a price.
Encouraging Ownership and Responsibility in High School Students
If there is one thing that all parents can do to benefit their children, it is to teach children to take ownership of their choices and their decisions. The high school years are a great time for this, as it is a time where children crave independence and a voice in their own lives. One of the best ways to teach our teenagers this, is to step away from conflicts they might have with others, and encourage them to handle these disagreements themselves. Try to motivate your kid explaining why his/her college years would be the greatest. When a child is able to effectively and constructively deal with a conflict, s/he develops a skill that will be a benefit well into adulthood. They also begin to cement their positions as adults in their community. It is natural to want to intercede on the behalf of our children, but if we do so we risk infantilizing them.
Making the Jewish Faith Relevant to High School Students
We all know that faith is not something that can be forced on anybody. We can mandate observance. We can mandate attendance. What we cannot do is force belief, or the role that the faith truly plays in the heart of our teenagers. What we can do, is find ways in which to make faith a practical part of life for our teenager. However, in order to do so, we often must let go of any expectation that our children will never have doubts or negative feelings about their faith.
Teenagers may be rebels at heart, but they are also natural activists. They also want to see purpose in things, especially matters of faith. Many people believe that, as a people, we have an obligation to serve others. It may be a good idea for us parents to encourage service as a way for our kids to connect with their faith, rather than forcing other types of observance or simply nagging.
Ultimately, the high school years are not our time to fix things for our kids. This is the time to teach them to fix things for themselves.
Andy Preisler is an experienced marketer and inspired blog writer at GrabMyEssay who is willing to help young enterpreneurs and students to master writing skills and to succeed with using professional content marketing techniques. Find Andy on Twitter or Facebook.