I turned to my 18 year old daughter the other day and asked her if she’d ever smoked. 18 years old and I’d never asked her before. It seems I’d only just got around to it. As I was rather pleased that I had finally thought to ask one of the questions that is surely in the parents’ guide of things to ask, I asked her one by one if her sisters had ever smoked (just in case I didn’t get around to asking them myself).
This morning I was thinking about this as I remembered how, when my daughters were really little, I was dreading the fact that they might smoke when they were teens. Of course, even now I don’t want them to smoke. But the point is that I forgot to worry about it when they became teenagers. I forgot to worry about it because bigger worries came along and took up my head space. I worried about them taking drugs and then this worry was displaced with a worry about screens and now this worry has been displaced with a worry about dreadful things happening to them when they get drunk.
Of course I am not suggesting that I am only capable of one worry at a time, but it made me realise that many of my worries simply melt into nothing and are replaced with trust.
When we reach a point with our teenagers that we feel able to trust them, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted from us. We are quite literally able to take a big step back and observe.
We can observe their fuck ups. But we can also observe that they are doing just fine.
As parents we will never, ever stop worrying. However, we must not smother our kids with our worries. I don’t think there’s any harm in letting them show either – it makes our children feel secure and maybe, perhaps, think a little more about how they act and what they do.
A teenager needs to feel trusted, because just as parents we feel more relaxed when we trust, our teenagers will gain in confidence with the knowledge that we trust them.
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