Parents naturally want to protect their adolescents from disappointments and mistakes; to help them avoid the difficult lessons that they learne the “hard ay” at their age. But part of letting go means allowing your adolescent to find his or her own solutions to problems in order to develop the coping skills required to function as an adult and to learn from mistakes. Sometimes this is an even harder lesson for parents. There are things you can do to help.
Provide guidance, but refrain from doing the actual problem solving. The only way that adolescents will be proficient at solving their own problems is if they are allowed to do so. Inherent in this premise is that they are bound to mess up from time to time. That’s OK. Each time, they hone their skill set on problem-solving and you hone your patience.
Try not to overreact when your adolescent makes a mistake. Making mistakes is part of being an adolescent and learning. When your adolescent makes a mistake, use it as an opportunity to start a conversation. Talk about the options that were available and the reasons behind the choices made. Brainstorm additional ways the particular situation could have been handled and the alternate outcomes, both positive and negative. This helps your adolescent learn to think about thinking, a skill that will serve him or her well in adulthood. If you overreact, your teen will soon learn not to come to you with problems. Help your adolescent analyze what went wrong and how not to repeat the error. Remember the best time to do this is when everyone is calm and not in the middle of reacting.
When you make a mistake, admit it. Model the behavior that you desire your adolescent to exhibit by taking responsibility for your own actions and the consequences of those actions. Don’t be too proud to apologize when you make a mistake. Take the time to talk about what led you to your actions and why they were wrong or inappropriate. Not only will you be modeling good behavior for your adolescent, but you may very well establish a new level of rapport with him or her.
Remember the mistakes you made as an adolescent. You were once the same age as your adolescent, with many of the same challenges. Remembering the mistakes you made along the way will help you to keep things in perspective when your adolescent makes a mistake.
As parents, we cannot shield our adolescents from every mistake, disappointment, and hurt life has in store. What we can do is equip our teens with the coping and problem solving skills to meet the world’s challenges head on and keep moving, undaunted toward reaching their potential. Guiding instead of directing them to their best success.