I am returning from a nearly-fatal motorcycle accident that put me out of commission for about a year. I offer some lessons I learned in the hospital that are universal enough they can be applied to parenting teenagers.
- Ask for what you need. I was happiest when my roommate turned down her T.V. or when someone heated up my cold dinner. Of course, asking a teenager for anything is a major ordeal. A better approach with a teenager is to tell them what they stand to gain if they do what you expect and what they stand to lose if they do not.
- It takes a small city to help someone to recovery. Over 500 medical professionals worked on my case. Likewise, it takes that many to raise a child. If you don’t have parents, siblings, aunts, or uncles nearby, build yourself a community that can help you supervise, teach, and guide your teens.
- Positive reinforcement works. When I thanked my aides or gave out stickers, I got better service. Telling a kid he did a good job goes a long way towards getting him to do it again. Adding a treat or a privilege to the compliment further cements the learning.
- Caretakers need to take breaks. Although my husband loves me deeply, we found it essential to take one day a week off from each other. Raising teens is exhausting work and if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be available to take care of your kids. Make sure you engage in enjoyable activities and get an occasional vacation away from your teen.
- Take help from any willing supporter. People showed up to help me that I barely even knew. A kindly old lady from church who offers to spend an afternoon with your child gives you a break and provides your child with another outlook on life.
- Don’t fret about people that don’t offer to help you. One of my closest friends simply never showed up for me. It may be true that your own mother simply isn’t that interested in being a grandmother. Don’t waste energy wishing she would be who you want her to be.
- No matter how limited you are, you can still help others. Flat on my back, I gave relationship advice to nurses. Even on your bad days, if you sincerely love your child, it’s better they have you than be alone. Likewise, even the most snotty and rotten teens can teach us a thing or two about life if we listen closely enough.
- Everyone has hidden struggles and challenges. You look at me now, you’d never even know I almost died last year. You get focused on your mortgage, health insurance, and that the car needs an oil change and may see your teen’s life as carefree, but keep in mind they’re trying to figure out dating and geometry simultaneously.
- Enjoy the really simple things. When I couldn’t do much else, I napped, colored in coloring books, and read novels. The fact that your kid didn’t get suspended or crash the car today is a good thing. Take her out for ice cream or a new pair of earrings.
- Any day could be your last. My last words to my husband on the morning of my accident were, “I love you.” If you were to get hit by a Buick tonight, would you want your last words to your kid to be the ones you said this morning?
Dr. Marlo Archer is a licensed psychologist specializing in working with kids, teens, and their families. She can be reached at www.DrMarlo.com or 480-705-5007. Follow Down To Earth Enterprises on Facebook or DrMarloArcher on Twitter.