How did it happen so fast? All of a sudden, it seems, your child is a teenager. Like it or not, here we are! Just when the stakes are the highest, when potential dangers like driving and dating loom, parents have the least control. Your child is almost grown up now.
“Almost” is the key word. Anthony Wolf has counseled hundreds of teens and their parents, and knows whereof he speaks. I am the parent of a teen myself, and what he says rings true for me. Teens are in a transitional period. They are almost ready to fly away from the nest, but not quite—which makes parenting them a tricky task.
The title of Wolf’s book expresses this perfectly: Get Out of My Life, But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? Teens really do both need us and want us to leave them alone. With humor and wisdom, Wolf explains how the “adolescent mandate,” that which tells these young people they must separate from their parents and live on their own soon, comes into conflict with the baby self which still lives inside them and wants to be pampered and safe. Indeed, this conflict exists in all of us—wanting help versus wanting to be independent, but in the teen years it intensifies painfully. Teens and their parents confront a transition bigger than anything they’ve faced so far. How can teens learn to be “grown-ups” while their parents keep telling them what to do?
Wolf stresses how important it is that parents not get completely out of their teens’ lives. Teens both desire and fear total independence, and most are not ready for it. They still need their parents. Parenting my teenaged daughter has felt sort of like a dance. Sometimes she advances while I withdraw, and sometimes it goes the other way around. We step on each other’s toes a lot, but we are also learning how to dance more gracefully. There are no hard and fast rules, but has there ever been in parenting?
Wolf’s book has helped me greatly, and I strongly recommend it to other parents of teens. Whether your child is 13 or 19, Wolf’s wonderful insights apply. You will find yourself chuckling, as he seems to have been a fly on your kitchen wall, overhearing the conversations (and even the shouting matches). As one reviewer aptly put it, “Wolf takes much of the fear and anxiety out of raising a teenager with this reassuring upbeat question-and-answer guide.” Heaven knows, we parents of teens need all the reassurance we can get!