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  • Lori K Walters

Being Prepared for parenting teens is an illusion. Here's what to do instead.

Updated: 6 days ago

red backpack and flashlight on a wooden table

Trying to be prepared is part of becoming a parent. Extra diapers, extra snacks and leaving 15 minutes early.

Now that our kids are older, we try to prepare in different ways. We watch for potential upsets, rehearse difficult conversations, assume things, brace ourselves… We try to see into the future and be ready for as many possibilities as we can. Because we love them and want them to have pleasant, fulfilling lives.

But what does all that preparation get in the way of?

  • Being open to possibilities you hadn’t even thought of. When you’ve put your time and thought into preparing for an event or conversation, you want it to go that way. You want your preparations to have been worthwhile. You end up being less flexible and open-minded and you miss out on other ways the event/ conversation can go. Maybe ways that are better for your relationship.

  • Presence to what’s really happening right now. Preparations and arrangements have a way of focusing our mind on the future and you end up missing the present.

  • Resourcefulness. When you’re trying to be prepared, you’re planning for all sorts of scenarios and trying to control the outcome. But when you’re in the flow of life, responding to the reality in front of you, you call upon your cleverness, unleash your imagination and bolster your initiative. You call upon (and develop) your resources.

  • Learning about your kid. Striving for preparedness has you making assumptions. Your brain tries to fill in the blanks and make educated guesses. You tend to expect your big kid to say certain things or behave in a certain way, which diminishes your ability to see who they really are, right now, in this situation. They are always changing and growing. Are you taking in who they are today?

  • Allowing the relationship to evolve. As above, predicting the future takes you out of your present reality. Here and now is where your relationship is happening.

From Preparedness to Openness Here’s a real-time exercise for you:

Take a few full breaths, settle in your seat and consider this question: What if you switched your intention from being prepared to being open? As you read this, there may be some part of you saying, But, but, but… Stop reading, close your eyes for a moment and listen in on the internal dialogue. What is that part of you saying? What reasons and excuses are surfacing? Is it not having time, feeling too vulnerable, don’t know how…? What feels big or hard? What risks is that part of you imagining about being ‘unprepared’? Is it about handing the reins over to your irresponsible kid, being unable to protect them, not wanting to feel them suffer, not fulfilling your job as a parent…? Pay attention to that dialogue, and the beliefs and assumptions underlying it. Remember, we cannot shift out of a way of thinking without increasing our awareness of what exactly that way of thinking is. You must listen to that inner dialogue.

Clear False Assumptions Next question: Are your efforts at preparedness paying off or are they undermining your ability to build your relationship with your young adult child? There’s an underlying assumption many parents make: As long as I strive to be prepared for whatever parenting teens might bring my way, then everyone will be safe and happy (and then I can relax). Now, according to your own experience, is that even true? Or was it a conclusion made by an earlier version of you when they were caught unprepared and felt embarrassed, incompetent, immature or stupid? It’s up to you. Is this a belief that you want to carry forward with you now? If the answer is no, there’s no need to go into regret or excuses. Simply pause and acknowledge what was. I want to stop here and hare with you what I know about judgement of the past. Through my years of energy clearing work for people and their homes, I’ve learned that I don’t need to know the qualities of the energy being cleared — it doesn’t need to be labelled as bad or good or useful for it to be released. When its time is done, it can go. Some say, ‘energy that’s no longer serving you’ but I call it “complete”. It’s energy that can be recycled, released back to the earth, the heavens, the ends of the universe. You don’t have to view your urge to be prepared as positive or negative. Your task is to let it be done and move on.

Putting It into Practice As you focus on clearing that old way, it will try to hang on. That means you’ll have to learn how to catch yourself in the act of succumbing to the urge to prepare. Your body will give you some clues. As I said, I have a part of me that craves certainty. I call her the Black and White Factory Comptroller and, when she’s running the show, my chin juts forward. My body looks like I’m trying to be in the future instead of the present. When I feel my neck in this position, my body is letting me know that I’ve slipped into the ways of the Comptroller. What about you? What kinds of things happen in your body when you’re trying to be prepared? Do you strain your eyes, clench your gut or use a different tone of voice? Do it right now — squint your eyes, tighten your belly… Those, my friend, are the clues that show you how to catch your Be Prepared part in the act. When you catch that part of you taking over, what would be one simple action that would interrupt her? Try it right now. Put yourself back in that pose. Tense your gut, jut your chin forward, or whatever it is for you. Now hold it and just wait. Hold it… what does your body naturally want to do to get out of that situation? Don’t let your mind decide this, leave it to your body and see what happens. Do your arms start wiggling? Do you lower yourself to the floor? Do you close your eyes? Your body already knows how to stop the old pattern — trust it.


This is how we break cycles — one outdated belief at a time. We take a good look at how they’re working for us. We practice catching ourselves when they’re in the driver’s seat and discovering our own natural ways of putting our Sage Self back behind the wheel. Your Sage Self knows how to improvise in parenting a young adult. She knows how to embark on adventures. She knows how unrehearsed conversations and impromptu adventures with your kid build more trust than over-preparedness ever will. She knows how to be spontaneous and flexible and trusts herself to respond well in unexpected situations (oh, so many unexpected situations, right?). Your Sage Self is already full of endless love and light. And that’s all that’s needed to step into the wide unknown and allow the relationship with your young adult child to grown and deepen in its own way.

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