Let's do something a little less boring and a little more fun this year with and for our teens. How about instead of resolving to scream less, to have more patience and to talk less negatively about their dads, we instead make resolutions that sound like fun? There is absolutely no need for resolutions to be a drag. And, it is precisely because they are a drag that we have a collective tendency not to be resolute in following up with them. So this year, let's start out with some out-o- the-box resolutions that are not negatively tinged.
1. How about resolving to be just a little bit sillier this year? Teach your teens that it is OK to be playful and to have fun. There is little benefit in taking everything in life so seriously, right? Warning: Do not do this in front of your teen's friends or they will be humiliated and embarrassed and this resolution will surely backfire. Are you up for trying out this one? Why or why not?
2. What about resolving to give your teens a few days off from school this year and referring to them as "mental health days?" You let your kids take days off from school when they are physically sick. Isn't their mental health equally important? I have to admit that I let my teenage daughter take a few mental health days each year during high school and they were just what the doctor ordered. She caught up on her rest and was just so happy to feel restored and reinvigorated. I must admit, though, that I have no problem functioning outside of the proverbial box as long as it has beneficial results. How do you feel about this idea? Would your teenagers like this one? Do you think that it might reduce their irritability a little bit and give them a mini-break?
3. Consider this one: Develop a mantra that not everything that your teenager does has tremendous meaning and repercussions. Come on. They are people too. They will make mistakes. They will have accomplishments. Praise them for their accomplishments. Talk to them about some of their disappointments and failures but don't act like your life and their lives depend on every little thing that happens. Lighten up, OK? They will love and appreciate you for this. They will also lie to you less because they won't worry so much about always pleasing you. Please don't tell me that they are not trying to please you. I know teens. Their greatest fear is disappointing you. They tell me this in the confines of my therapy office where and when they know that you are not listening.
4. Resolve to get out of the house and spend time with your own adult friends. This sounds counter-intuitive. You should spend your free time around the house so that you can be available in case your teenagers want to talk to you,right? NO, NO, NO. They do not always need you to be around. In fact, it is good for them to see you having a life. It is good for them to see that their parents too enjoy spending time with peers. You don't want to inadvertently give your teenagers the message that adults live entirely for their teenagers -- or do you? You think that there is something positive about being a martyr? I am not sure that I can support you on that one.
5. This one is really important: If you are a divorced parent, do NOT resolve to start dating again when your teenagers go away to college. Where is this ridiculous idea written in stone? Resolve to date and socialize when you are emotionally ready, not in six years when your kids are all out of the house. It's good for your teenagers to see you trying to find some companionship in your life. They may not always like who you date and may have secret wishes that you will reunite with your ex-spouse, but that's okay. You'll deal with that. You don't want to give them the message that adult dating is a sneaky activity that can only happen when they are gone -- or do you? Hey, let me be perfectly clear. I am not at all suggesting that you go out constantly and bring all of your dates home. I am instead suggesting a little balance. Are you still with me?
Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. These are your lives, your teenagers and your resolutions!