I received a letter recently from a parent who had attended one of my seminars, thanking me for providing her with a new outlook (the power of understanding) with her 12 year old daughter. With her permission I will share her story with you.
It seems this is a skiing family. In past years, this family of four have equally enjoyed this activity, so much so that this year they decided to really commit and rent a ski house for the season. This couple also have a younger daughter in addition to the 12 year old daughter. This is no small expense and the parents hoped that this would be a great opportunity for family time, chatting in line and on the lifts, skiing the trails together, etc. Seemingly out of no-where, this previously enthusiastic skier only wants to sit in the lodge and "veg". The parents feeling helpless, have this conversation with her which I am sure will be familiar to many of you. "We were offering everything under the sun...Do you want to have a friend up? No. Do you want to stay home with a friend this weekend? No. You can't just stay home and do nothing. I know. What do you want to do? I don't know. We just want you to be happy. Tears at the bottom of the lift. The guy next to us just kept looking at us like crazed parents-ugh."
For whatever reason this 12 year old is feeling differently about skiing this season. Maybe she is self-conscious in a way she never felt before. Maybe she doesn't like the way she looks in her ski clothes, maybe as her body is changing and feeling clumsier and out of sync with her body she feels awkward and uncoordinated, maybe maybe maybe, it could be thousand things that she cannot articulate. It just does not feel right. PERIOD. Embarrassment and worry about how others see you is the over-riding theme of adolescence, and something that you as parents have absolutely no control over. You can't talk them out of it, you can't punish them or threaten them out of it. These are such strong and powerful feelings that if you fight them on it, they will fight back, feeling that the alternative (what you want them to do) is way worse than whatever punishment you choose to dole out. The other frustration for parents is like the 12 year old in the story, most kids can't articulate what exactly is going on, they just know what they know, which is something feels really really bad, and they will stand their ground no matter what to avoid feeling worse, no matter the consequences. This is beyond frustrating for parents, who are determined to figure out the problem, and then fix it. The good news is that this is just a moment in time, maybe a few years, but as they gain some confidence and self-understanding this becomes at least a conversation rather than an inquisition.
These wonderful parents, using the power of understanding and I get it moments I teach in my seminar and I hope in this blog realized this and came to this conclusion: "She is not lazy, she is an excellent student, and she wants to be with us (thankfully), but maybe sometimes she just needs to sit in the lodge with her music, or a book, and be very content. And we need to be OK with that, too. She is such a wonderful girl, we just want her to be happy, but this is all part of growing up and learning who she is, trials and triumphs."
I couldn't have said it any better.