While our children grow up into teenagers nowadays, let’s understand the shift taking place in them and in their way of needing us.
Over the past few months, as I’ve spent more time at home, I’ve wondered why my teenage children sometimes point out that they missed me on the few occasions when I’ve been out. While it’s nice to know I’ve been missed, I thought it was rather strange because when I am around at home, they seem to be content doing their own things. And hours can go by when we haven’t talked to each other.
All of us parents and especially those of us with corporate or professional lives, struggle to spend more time with the family and children and make the most of ‘quality over quantity’.
I came across this wonderful article on New York Times talking about teenagers nowadays and the role of ‘potted plant parents’ in their lives. I loved this term and the article resonated with me as I think it makes sense for many of us, who as parents of adolescents, need to understand the shift taking place in our children. And understand the shift taking place in the way that our children relate to us and need us.
As our two teenagers have been growing up, we have been seeing the change taking place at our home. Dinner time together continues to be important. But often catching up over dinner or those “so, how was your day” conversations work only to an extent. That does not mean that our children do not want to talk about their day. Maybe they do not want to talk about it just then.
Also not all the activities that we used to do together when they were younger find common ground now in terms of timings or interests. In other words, as many of us parents of adolescents would know, they now need to be ‘convinced’ about joining us for activities. Activities that they would have all too readily jumped at or insisted on joining when they were younger.
This shift taking place in their behaviour is coming from the changes taking place in them as they grow and develop their independent views, interests and choices. This needs to translate into us understanding that shift in our teenagers, and respect that they can need us and connect with us differently during these years.
I have been experiencing that even if I’m just being around my children or taking the ‘form of blending into the background like a potted plant’, that time does matter to them. It may seem like we are not pursuing any common activity, nor are we having any conversation. But then sometimes they suddenly open up and talk. They share their viewpoint on something. Or show a song or video they like. Or seek advice on something that’s been troubling them.
As the article rightly states this is as relevant for full-time working or travelling (‘fly-in, fly-out’) parents – both fathers and mothers – as they can stay connected with their teenagers nowadays “by regularly checking in by social media, texts and FaceTime — letting their kids know that even though they were away, they were still watching.”
So fellow parents of teenagers, let’s not fret if our children are doing their own thing. Let’s understand that they still need us in their teenage years, just that they need us differently. Let’s embrace our potted plant parenting and enjoy these years together with them!
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