Many parents can struggle with the transition of their child into a teenager, and especially with teens’ increased need for freedom. Parents can be terrified of giving their child more choice and freedom in the midst of this intense biological need to try and manage their teen’s schoolwork, social media use, after-school activities, friendships, and more.
That’s why I like to think of parenting a teenager as bowling with the bumpers up. Your role is not to hold your child’s hand as they roll the ball down the lane or even bowl for them—that won't help much. Additionally, you don’t want to just let them bowl like an adult, without any bumpers or support, since teens are not ready for complete control (unless they're a surprisingly capable bowler, but let's pretend they're not for this analogy). Instead, your job is to be the bumpers in the lane. You allow your teen to try, to have some freedom in rolling the ball, while ensuring that they don’t go down the gutter.
And it’s important as a parent to figure out what going down the gutter would look like. At what point should you be concerned about allowing too much freedom? What would the warning signs look like specifically? Once you are clear on that, you can set up systems and support structures in place to ensure that your child has the freedom they crave without the opportunity to completely crash and burn, potentially harming themselves or their future. While your teen won’t always bowl a strike (and they’ll learn from their experiences either way), they will have your support and help when they need it the most.
I am a teen-empowerment coach. I work with teen girls, ages 14-17, who struggle with self-acceptance, perfectionism, seeking attention from others, and deep sadness or anger.