Parenting an Adolescent – The Serenity Prayer

Brentwood Adolescent Therapist – As the mother of two challenging and lovely teenagers, and as a professional who has worked with teens and their parents, I’ve learned a few things… Mostly I’ve learned that what I “know” might not matter much. What does matter is the moment-to-moment necessity of keeping a cool, level head, and maintaining my own sanity within the turbulence. As I work to maintain equanimity, the words of the Serenity Prayer sometimes help. I was thinking about how these words help me, and thought I’d share…

Help me to accept the things I cannot change –

We have so little actual control.
We can’t make our kids like school, we can’t choose the boyfriends or girlfriends we’d like them to have, we can’t always make them wear clothes we like. We can’t control what they eat, if they become sexually active, if they use drugs… We cannot control the bad or dangerous choices they might make.
We have to accept our lack of control.

Courage to change the things I can-

We each have to examine our own behavior as parents and as people. Ask yourself: am I setting the best example possible? Is what I’m doing working? The easiest thing to do is to give in to anger; to yell, to badger, to nag. It’s harder to maintain perspective. We can change our own behavior, even when we can’t change our kids’ behavior.

Sometimes the change we need to make is to take our hands off, let them fall, let them fail, and let them accept the consequences. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stop talking. If you’ve said something a thousand times, you must have faith that you’ve been heard, and be brave enough to stop “reminding”. Nagging doesn’t motivate.

Where you can set limits, you may need courage to tolerate your teen’s anger at you for holding firm.

Wisdom to know the difference –

We can’t control how they spend money, but we can control how much we give. We can’t control what they eat, but we can control what food we bring home. We can’t control if they choose to use drugs or smoke, but we can set good examples with our own behavior. We can’t control if they choose to become sexually active, but we can ensure that they are thoroughly educated about birth control and STD’s, and we can talk with them about the emotional side of sexual activity. We can’t choose our teens’ friends, boyfriends, or activities, but we can do our best to keep the lines of communication open. We can’t prevent them from getting hurt, but we can provide a place of love and warmth to return to.

Brentwood Adolescent Therapist Dr. Perri Zinberg.

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