Maybe you remember teaching your kid to ride a bike. Many of us began with training wheels. The little guy rode happily, rattily along the sidewalk, wobbling side to side, oblivious to the notion of balance. . . but it didn’t matter because the training wheels protected him from falling. The new independence was thrilling . . . if a bit unnerving for us parents.
As parents of tweens and teens, we’re all about a new type of training wheels and a new type of independence. But BALANCE remains a big concern. When our child is younger, we maintain the balance, more or less. If she’s tired, no sleep-over. If his science project isn’t done, no soccer fun. But as our kid rounds the bend toward young adulthood, he MUST learn to balance the elements of his life himself. And as parents realized in earlier lessons, falling is part of the learning; there is no way we can be there to prevent each tumble. We really only have two choices: allow freedom, knowing there’ll be tumbles, even crashes OR tell our kid, “NO freedom, no thrilling ride, no independence. It’s just too unsafe!” Sooner or later however, most healthy kids WILL head for the thrilling ride of independence.
It can help to think of “balance” as happening in 4 different areas:
- WORK (school, job, chores, college applications)
- PLAY (something fun for the kid, the experience of “flow” where time passes seamlessly)
- LOVE (family, friends, romance, community, team, mentors)
- HEALTH (sleep, substance use, exercise, eating well, making dr. appointment)
As parents, it’s like a kid learning to ride a bike, so lots of assistance early on, then to training wheels, then “wheels off” unless kid falters, in which case, back with the training wheels…hoping, AIMING to take them off permanently. WHEN the kid falls (doesn’t get into the college he’d hoped; the kids she likes don’t like her; he doesn’t make the team) a parent is always there to help dust off, get back on the bike, support as needed.
How can a parent be helpful as the kid learns “balance” for herself?
Stay tune for more on that in my next blog!