By Debbie Zoller, MSW, LCSW
Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley
Parenting children through their teenage years can be full of challenges and rewards! JFS is offering a supportive group with therapeutic facilitation to focus on some of the specific issues around parenting teens today. Parents frequently wish to deepen their connection to their growing children. The group setting encourages parents to learn from and listen to each other. Sharing experiences helps parents to have more support on their journey. Information and resources that might be helpful beyond the group experience will also be provided.
While the teen years tend to be a time for teens to find their group of peers, it makes sense that parents of teens talk to their peers about some of the issues they are facing together. Teens have to navigate academics, physical changes, their sexuality and competitive situations. In Dr. Daniel Siegel’s book called “Brainstorm,” he writes about the changes in the adolescent brain. “While most measurable aspects of our lives are improving during adolescence, such as physical strength, immune function, resistance to heat and cold, and the speed and agility of how we respond, we are three times more likely to suffer serious injury or death during this time than we were in childhood or than we will be in adulthood. This increase in risk is not ‘by chance’ – scientists believe it comes from the innate changes in how the brain develops during this period.”
Dr. Siegel reflects that in the old days, children were often raised by a village of extended family members and close friends. Today, parents and their children are frequently more isolated and therefore don’t share the richness of supportive connections. This is another reason why it can be so constructive for parents to come together to share their concerns and challenges. Parents can talk to each other in a confidential setting so that they are responding to their teen in a more mindful and constructive way. When parents don’t have a place for themselves to explore their own feelings about their children, they probably will react more impulsively. They may see a teen’s behavior through a negative lens and then react negatively which will produce more hostility.
Parents need a tool box to navigate the teen years. This tool box can be developed in a therapeutic group with the guidance of trained professionals. Parents may expand their ability to communicate and how to set boundaries by talking to each other. A group also offers the opportunity to gain different perspectives on decision making, budgeting, and at risk behavior.
Frequently teens don’t recognize their parents when they become adults and parents don’t recognize their teens when they become adults. The experience of parenting teens is diverse and unique. Think back to your own adolescence and how it felt. Therapeutic groups provide the opportunity to laugh, cry and to build strategies so that your tool box is better equipped.