Please don’t let me be misunderstood...
Please don’t let me be misunderstood...
Parent24 Editor, Scott Dunlop

Don’t take this personally- my own experiences as a teen may have nothing to do with yours- but I found them to be very difficult years. Now that my son is facing his 13th birthday this week, I’m forced to think about what lies ahead. Will my experiences help me to be a better parent, or should I just treat him as an individual without any reference to the way I felt?

I was sometimes happy, sometimes lost. I was laughed at, mocked, insecure, over-emotional, confused, and shy. I spent so many years feeling misunderstood, and yet the person who misunderstood me most was... me.

He’s reserved, polite, emotional, generally happy, good with people, a little too hard on himself. There’s quite a bit of me in him, and yet he’s also aware of his strengths. When he gets upset, he also tends to feel misunderstood.

When you’re coming to grips with language and the power it can have to alter the course of your life, instead of making things easier to express, it seems to make it harder. I’m slowly figuring out that I need to help him understand himself, though, rather than force him to understand me.

But then, that’s usually how it goes. With all my children, no matter what their ages. Listen, explain, and ask questions. Get them to open up, keep them engaged. My hope is that they’ll all stay engaged, and not retreat into a nest of t-shirts and jeans, hands cupped over their cell phones.

He’s hoping to go on his first date soon, to a movie, with a girl who by all accounts is sweet and friendly. A girl he says he likes because she’s “clever, good at maths and kind”. A bit like him, then. Perhaps, as he embarks on this next stage in his life- forming relationships as well as friendships, he’ll also put those things into practice: listen, ask questions and engage.

There will be times of confusion and of feeling misunderstood, but hopefully fewer than if he’s living inside his own head.

This is my hope for my son on the verge of his teens. It may not be anything like your approach to parenting, and you may have styles and skills I don’t possess, but I hope for all of us that we don’t lose our children as teens, and that the lessons we teach them (gently) become the bubble wrap which protects them from taking the hard times too badly.

As he enters his teens, I may need a little of that bubble wrap myself...

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