A great lead in to a frank conversation with your teens.


Reposting from Alyson Jones great blog

The one thing I have learned about parenting, particularly about parenting teens – we can’t do it alone.   The support of others, advice, guidance, wisdom – it is what gets me through this challenging (and of course, often highly rewarding!!) time.

I so appreciate my new friend Lorraine Sims thought provoking essay which she gave me permission to share:


by Lorraine Sims

I write this as a parent who has experienced the turmoil of adolescence, and as a friend who has listened to the frustrations and solutions of many other parents.

Raising a Child to Adulthood

            I am sure there are millions of families who breeze through adolescence smoothly and gracefully.  But I’ve never met one.

As parents, we are not properly prepared to guide our teens through this difficult period as they struggle for their independence, while still being dependent on us.

Our modern society has forgotten how to know when our young have grown up, have reached adulthood, and are ready to leave home.  In our human culture, we fail to recognize the right time.  We either push our young out too soon, out of anger and frustration, or we hold onto them too long, out of fear and worry, turning them into 30-year old boys or 40 year old spinsters.

In the animal world, the lioness and the bear will teach their cubs to hunt for food, to protect themselves from predators, and to guard their territory from invaders.  When the young have competently demonstrated to the parents that they can fend for themselves, the parents will release them unto their own resources.

Birds build their nests with sticks pointed upwards toward the nesting chicks.  When the chick becomes a certain weight, the sticks begin to prick into the bird’s underbelly, making it uncomfortable to remain in the nest.  With each passing day, and increasing weight, the chick gradually leaves the nest, and the parents teach the young to fly.

Perhaps we should place sticks in our teen’s mattress and, when they reach 120 lbs and complain of stinging sheets, we will know that ‘it is time’.

The signs are evident when our young are ready for independence and to fly the coop.  It occurs naturally in their teens at 15, 16 or 17.  They evolve naturally – it is in their nature.  There is a gestation period of childhood, of adolescence, which transforms into adulthood.  The signs are often frustration and anger.  They want to fly free.  But if we are not confident that we have done enough to prepare them to fend for themselves, we clip their wings and restrict their freedom.

The natural shift has taken place within them, and now the shift must take place in us. We must see that it is time to let go.  Not to let go of


or care

or protection,

but to let go of control.

It is most difficult for us, as parents.   We have been controlling their every waking moment since the day they were born.  We have invested 15 or 16 years in our child.  Our blood, sweat and tears are in that teenager.  We won’t readily give that up.  There is a big part of us in our teen, and if we let go, it’s like loosing part of ourselves.

We are not confident that they are ready to be responsible for themselves – to protect themselves from predators, to create their own earnings and to secure their own homes.  We blame ourselves for not teaching them how to be fully independent, to be respectful of others, to ensure self-protection, and be responsible for themselves.

But they must learn on their own now.  They are ready to graduate to a bigger classroom in which they learn life skills and life lessons.

When they are ready, but we are not, it can become dangerous.  We push them out into the world, or hold them down and restrain them.

The shift for parents is very difficult.  We fear loneliness and abandonment when our children leave us. But, we must recognize that it is a natural part of the human condition.  We will survive and, in fact, will also embark on a period of transition, for this is a new freedom for us as well.

The shift begins with the acknowledgement that we have done the best that we could with the resources we had.  And, in the moments of happiness and joy, and the love and care we instilled in them, we prepared them to be full and whole human beings.  We must look deeper into ourselves and into our teens to see the good and the great that we have instilled within them.

While I have not met a family who breezed through adolescence gracefully, I have read that adolescence is a calm and smooth transition in indigenous cultures.

There are many factors contributing to this:

–     natural food that contains no chemicals which alter behaviour.

–     no outside influences pressuring the teens to look or be false in any way.

–       a whole village to raise a child with support from elders and community to guide and love the young.

–       an understanding and comfort in knowing that, at every age, the family will remain together – they are not raised by two absent-working parents, or a struggling single parent, and do not send their grandparents parents away to old age homes, or their children to foster families.

Here in North America, our culture is very different – our parents and grandparents immigrated from Europe – creating an independent culture – one that breaks from family in search of new adventures, new territories, and a better life in which to raise children.  This independence is infused into our psyches, our families, cultures and nations.

When a teen’s fight for independence begins, we as parents become scared and frustrated.  We forget that it is in our nature to strive for independence and to quest for freedom.  But we haven’t been taught how to handle ourselves or our teens when they:

–       stay out too late

–       shrug off their responsibilities

–       skip classes

–       achieve low grades

–       display a rebellious attitude

–       don’t even seem to know when to put on a warm coat, find their keys or clean their own environment.

–       begin to taste liquor and drugs

–       become involved with ‘new’ friends who may lure them into criminal activity

–       become disrespectful to us and others in authority

We get upset with ourselves because we think we have failed in our parental duties.  In an effort to ward off the dangers or enforce ‘correct’ behaviors, we put tighter controls on them to protect them, prevent them from making mistakes or punish them.  But punishment does not change behaviour, it only changes the relationship with the punisher.  And not for the better.  We know this from our own experience, but keep perpetuating the damage, due to a lack of new strategies.  Afterall, we learned our parenting techniques from our own parents, and we know that their methods were flawed.

When our teens say they don’t feel trusted or respected by us, we talk louder and over them to assert that we are right.  Afterall, we have 25 – 35 more years of life experience than they do, so we must be right.  In facts, perhaps, but not in feelings and insights.

The right to express feelings, the right to be heard, acknowledged and validated, outweigh the need to be right.

When our teens become so exasperated with our rules, our restrictions, our punishment, our unjust conditions, and misguided good intentions, they have difficulty processing it all and don’t know how to respond, through lack of life experience.  They resort to what they know, and what has worked in the past; they yell and scream and slam the door to express their frustration.

Then, in a moment of fury and in the absence of any new parenting skills, we revert back to our old methods that worked 10 years ago – we treat our teens like children.  We threaten to hold their belongings hostage or we damage their possessions as a way to demonstrate our might and authority.  And it backfires.  It ignites a raging battle.

We demonstrate our supremacy by punishing with cruelty, withholding our love, forbidding their planned activities, and by confiscating their belongings – those treasured items that connect them to their life source and a sense of belonging.  We take away their


their computers,

their life lines to others

their tools for creative expression and healing

their art supplies

their musical instruments

their scientific instruments

and their sports equipment

We take what is not ours.  We behave like children.

Not only do we steal their belongings, we often steal their dreams.  In our misguided intentions to ‘steer them in the right direction; for their own good’, we push them off their natural path, and forget the guiding principle of child-rearing:

Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.


Inherent in each child and adult is their natural talent, their highest potential and their greatest contribution to the world.  These inborn qualities match perfectly with each individual’s greatest joy and biggest dream.  When we rob our children of their right to pursue their dreams, we create great internal distress that can result in hostile external problems.  Frustrations emerge and struggling behaviours surface.  This, too, can result in yelling, screaming and even violence (if violence was experienced in childhood).


So how do we break this stalemate of behaving like children and treating our teens like children?  How do we proceed now that both the parents and the children are adults?  How do we live together and evolve into this new relationship?

Here is the crux of it:  Even though both we and our children are now adults, only we are the parents.  We are the ones responsible for demonstrating maturity.  It is up to us to end the cycle of anger and frustration, and show a higher wisdom.  We must take the higher road – unconditional love.

This doesn’t mean that we condone or support any of their troublesome behaviors; it means that we release them and allow them to learn for themselves.  It means we let them go.

To let them go does not mean we abandon them or push them away.

To let them go does not mean we give up or stop caring.

To let them go means we trust that our teens will be safe and responsible.

To let them go means that we, as parents, believe we have done our best to instill moral values and compassionate qualities in our children.

To let them go means we release our tight grip.

To let them go means we ease the tight pain in our hearts.

To let them go means we allow them to make mistakes.

To let them go means we express our love – without condition.

Even when the evidence shows us that our teens have not learned how to be respectful, how to be caring or how to be responsible, we must let our adult children go – with love.  When we let our adult children go, they feel the release, they sense the freedom and this gives them an opportunity to grow and mature.  Our release must come first.  We often say that we will treat them like adults when they behave like adults, but this perpetuates the cycle of frustration.  It is our responsibility, as parents, to initiate the new cycle, by letting them go and letting them grow.

It takes great strength and courage to raise a child to adulthood.  It takes physical strength, emotional wellbeing, mental acuity, and spiritual love.  Adolescence is an opportunity for our children to grow up and for us to mature.   In the experience of adolescence, our learning curve usually peaks with our first child.  After we have experienced it once, we are much wiser the second time.

There is an adjustment period.  It may take a year of gradual release, trust, and then even a feeling of happiness that they are experiencing the world on their terms.  It doesn’t mean they move out of the house; it means that they move out of the way of our control.

The best way – the only way – to ensure our grandchildren grow up happy, healthy and wise – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, is to ensure our children grow up happy, healthy and wise.

Lorraine Sims,

Mother of two teenage children

March 22, 2012

Parenting Resource for Teens

Not all parents have teens that are experimenting with, or struggling with substances.   But for those of us who are, this is a great resource.   

My teenage son is now attending a fabulous program that involves a significant amount of outdoor education, small classrooms and an amazing counsellor who is on site daily as well as with the students on their wilderness outings. Here’s a RP of his latest newsletter w/ some info on his upcoming parent workshops & individual counselling.

1) Feature Article: Parents As Leaders for Their Teens

Working with teens on a daily basis in groups, classrooms,
wilderness settings,and in my private counselling office I
see that every move you make as an adult has an impact on
them. Teens want to learn appropriate ways of handling situations
in life. Teenagers will watch how I treat or react to a co-worker,
a parent, or handle a difficult situation. They will test and
see how I react to something that they think might be shocking
to me.

Teens appreciate adult leadership in situations where they feel
too awkward, weird, or uncomfortable to handle on their own.
This is particularly true when it is something that they must
face that involves emotions such as embarrassment, shame,
guilt, sadness, hurt, to name a few.

How You Can Be a Positive Leader for Your Teen:

Lead by Guiding Your Teen Through Challenging Events

On multi-day camping trips with the teens I work with,
we often form a circle and process challenging
events. Some of these events are inter-personal conflicts or
inappropriate behaviours. We, as the adults, lead and guide the
conversation. We encourage everyone to express themselves,
take responsibility for their actions, and be held accountable.

The school staff and myself are responsible for maintaining an
atmosphere of emotional, mental, and physical safety. While teens
may not often appreciate sitting in a circle processing an event,
they do appreciate the adults being in charge so that it is a safe
environment in order to grow and learn from. Teens have confided
in me that they will take risks with peers and even parents only
when an adult is there to advocate for them or hold everyone
accountable for an emotionally safe environment. Teens will share
emotions such as hurt, frustration, fear, anxiousness, etc, when
they feel safe enough to do so. The adults make sure that the group
doesn’t get into a negative spin with people angrily accusing each
other, which hinders the resolution of conflict and the facilitation
of growth. On a smaller and personal scale, you as a parent are
responsible for the emotional and mental safety in your home. Teens
will not share everything with you of course, but they will be much
more open to being held accountable and taking responsibility for
their actions when they feel a good level of emotional and mental
safety and trust with you as the adult. Being aware and responsible
for your own emotions, especially in challenging events is the first
step to creating emotional and mental safety in your home. Suspend
your own emotional reactions and practice listening first to what
they have to say. Listening is not the same as approving any negative
behaviour. Listening does show that you are in control of yourself,
which is the first step creating a sense of emotional safety in most

Lead By Modeling Healthy Spousal And Ex-Spousal Relationships

How we treat our spouses and others around us is also picked
up by our kids. When we, as adults, work through our own issues
and inter-personal conflicts with the people closest to us it gives
our children a tremendous internal compass of what is possible
between people. No one is perfect, but the overall values of trust,
commitment, self-respect,determination, hope, responsibility, etc.
are things that kids learn from being in the presence of adults who
practice these values.

Single parents are also very influential in how they treat or handle
ex-spouses and other adults around them as well. Every situation is
different and sometimes single parents need to make difficult
decisions based on their circumstances. However, a decision based
on integrity and good intention in regards to relationships is far
better than reacting emotionally.

Lead By Taking Responsibility For Yourself

Like most parents you are willing do a lot for your kids, but
remember to be willing to do things for yourself as well. If you are
prone to anger and irritability because of stress you are responsible
for the impact this has on your teen –and for apologizing to help
heal the wounds. Sometimes we end up snapping at our kids for
things that are stressing us out that have little to do with them.
Just like we expect our kids not to take out their frustrations on us
or other people, we need to be aware of how well we are taking care
of ourselves so we can be in the best frame of mind when being with
our kids.

Lead by Showing Strong Personal Values

How we eat and drink, the amount of time we spend on the computer,
and the amount we exercise, etc., all have an impact on our kids. Our
attitudes towards different ethnic cultures, towards our jobs, and
how we see the world has an influence on those closest to us and
around us.

Teens will experiment and test values to varying degrees, but as they
grow up many of the values that you practiced and exposed them to in
the home will sprout later in life in them. Of course we don’t expect
our children to become carbon copies of ourselves, as there will be
differences, but as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author
of ScreamFree Parenting stated, “Who you are as a person has far more
influence on your kids than any lecture you give them.”

Lead by Being Engaged in Self-Development, Growth, and Learning

I have worked with teens who are very proud of their mothers or
fathers for upgrading their own education, starting something new
in life, or overcoming drug and alcohol abuse. What these adults did
was focus on self-development by taking action and making a
commitment. Teens looked up to these parents as an example of
what is possible in a very concrete and real way. They saw an adult
take charge of their own life, work hard, and achieve something that
could be measured and celebrated. It doesn’t have to be a major life
changing event either. Even little things show a sense of
responsibility and care for yourself that is positive for you and
positive for your child to witness.

Leading As a Parent Is Not The Same As Controlling Behaviour

Leading is about being in a position of influence, rather than trying
to control our children through lectures and discipline. As teens
experience the kind of positive leadership that you show them, they
start adopting these values and behaviours themselves. I have seen
teens grow over time because of challenges they face and being lead
positively through the process by an adult step by step. Then as time
goes on, the teens rely less on the adults because of their own
practice, confidence, and skill in handling different and difficult
situations. I have seen teens after being lead through many growth
processes by adults eventually take over and step into more
leadership type roles. They are able to do this because of their
experience and wisdom gained from having gone through several
challenging processes. This in the end is what parents want when
launching their kids into adulthood.

“Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly
and follow.”
-Chinese Proverb


2) Free Talk/Workshop

“Collecting, Connecting, and Correcting working with Teens”
Decvember 12, 2012

— Would you like to have a closer relationship with you teen son or
— Discover ways to connect with your teen that actually brings you
and your teen closer.
— Look at how to strengthen your relationship and make it more
positive and rewarding.

Registration Info:

Website: http://www.kdkcounselling.com/free_talk.htm



Parenting Program for Parents of Teens

Starting Date Wednesday January 23 2013 For 6 sessions
Evenings 6pm-8:30pm

Focus on
— Strengthening Your Parenting Skills,
— Regain Your Sense of Self,and Bring More Peace Back in Your Life
— Discover how to improve communication with your teen,
— Handle confrontations and conflict, and develop the
confidence and the skills to resolve the problems you are
having with your teen.

This parenting program that include experiential
exercises and mini lectures on teen development.

This Parenting Group will be held at
John Oliver Secondary School
530 East 41st Ave (41st and Fraser)
Vancouver, BC V5W 1P3

Classroom #176

For more information go to:

To register send e-mail to: Klaus@kdkcounselling.com


4) Counselling Services

I provide counselling for teens, parents, and family.

Call for a free 10-minute consultation 604-786-0709

Website: http://www.kdkcounselling.com/index.htm

Burnaby Office location: 2nd Floor 5050 Kingsway Burnaby — near
Metrotown Station

Vancouver Office Location: 2nd Floor 1892 West Broadway — near Cyprus
and Broadway

Hours: 4-7 pm Mon, Tues, and Wed

Klaus Klein is a Register Clinical Counsellor in BC

Parenting Poster






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