By Donesa Walker, M.Ed. BCCS, owner of LearningRx and Brain Train Learning Solutions
Navigating the Woes of Middle-School
The first time flying a kite is an experience of wonder and frustration until you begin to understand the power of the tether or line is what allows the kit to fly the best. Holding the line too tight will cause the kite to miss the wind and lose altitude. Being too loose with the kite makes it dance and dive but eventually crash.
Such is the balance of the line with teens.
My parents and I recently had a good laugh as I related how I was such a good teen and so easy to manage. I never got into “trouble,” but I did have lots of ups/downs in moods. The laugh was on the part of my parents for what I perceived as such an easy time, to them was a roller coaster and the same is true with my boys who are thankfully on the “other side” of these years and into the next phase of life. The key to navigating the tween to teen years is in the tether.
The first stage of frustration reminds one a lot of the terrible twos…when the tween is just too little to be big enough to do what other teens do, but they are too old/big to do what little kids do, especially in areas of group events. This stage is fraught with body awareness and a desire to explore but not always in a safe or healthy manner and this requires the tightening of the string in order for that kite to catch the right wind and not get all tangled up with the other kites flying in all kinds of directions. The best advice for this is stage is to create boundaries and safety nets. Boundaries that are clear and enforced will allow the tween/teen to spend time with friends and provide a safety net of outs. This is a time that the child is really discovering who they are outside the parent. All of the new winds look so enticing and feel so exciting but without a strong tether will lead to a crash. For parents, the roller coaster of finding balance is so frightening and somewhat overwhelming that many become too tight and the child completely rebels and others let loose too much and the child flounders without boundaries. What are the right things to do? Build a kite and go fly it together.
- Create the framework of kite together. Open the doors of conversation as a must daily. There must be times each day that the parent and the child talk — really talk, not the text/call talk but the how I am feeling kind of talk. This is easier with girls most times as boys tend to struggle with finding the words to voice their feelings.
- Cut the fabric on the pattern for the kite. This is a time to teach them the value of choosing the right fabric to build upon and the right tools to use to get where you need to get. This is the time you can discuss choosing the right friends and connections to begin planning for the future, setting goals and ways to meet them. This is time to begin opening the door to the ways you will be a different role in their future…a role that is much more demanding but very different.
- Attach the tether string. Make an open channel of trust and sharing of expectations/non-negotiables. Allow the tween/teen to express their own thoughts and set the guidelines of dates/events/group gatherings/online chats/gaming/etc. together and allow them to input what discipline should be given for breaking the expectations you agree upon.
- Attach the tail string. Discuss the kite concept that you are there for their safety and for tether. Allow them to know that there are certain rights and privileges that they have but there are also expectations that must be fulfilled. Explain that you are their safety net and the tough call when they are in uncomfortable situations. I told my boys that I can be the bad guy you can blame all the no can dos on. Set up a security text word or even a letter that they can text you when they need you to get them out of a situation. Being the tether means that you can pull that kite in when the winds are too high, or they get too near the branches or power lines that would damage them.
- Decorate the kite together. Discuss how adorning themselves should be a reflection of who they are and not their peers or the current fads. Allow them to understand that while another person may want a kite/life filled with certain things, that these things are not who they are nor who they will be, so they need to fill their kite up with who they are and who they want to be in the future. My dad always told me the I was the mother of the woman I would become so I needed to remember that…and allow the person I wanted to be drive my life choices.
- Put in the support bars for the kite structure. Be aware of learning issues and make sure you get these evaluated and treated as this is a time these often flare up when they have been hidden. Get support and testing from local experts such as LearningRx to know the baseline of their cognitive skills before they are involved in sports/driving/adventures that could lead to head trauma or learning issues. Recognize any issues with the emotional systems and reach out to local counselors. This is the time to teach them the value of support systems for using throughout life.
- Go fly the kite together! Remind them that they are a part of you and always will be. Teach them the principles of the kite and the value of the tether. The principles and morals you have instilled from God’s heart to theirs will still be there as long as they remember the value of the tether.
- Be the wind beneath their wings. Provide opportunities for them to flourish and fly. Give them encouragement and plenty of opportunities to make good choices. Be like the mother bird who pushes the baby out to try its wings but is there to help the baby get back to the nest safely.
- Repair the kite to fly again when it crashes or gets too close to a power line and burns. Reattach the tether when they cut it carelessly with their actions.
- Fly with them for it will not be long until they are your tether, and you are the one dependent on them. Share that you too understand the value of the tether and that you will be the tether for them now as they will be your tether to this life by carrying on your legacy as life marches on.
Now, as Julie Andrews so beautifully sang…
“Let’s go fly a kite, up to its highest height! Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…up to the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, oh, let’s go…fly a kite!