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  • Lori K Walters

Parenting teens means accepting what you cannot control

dew drops on green leaf

We had some unseasonably warm weather last week but now it has returned to the normal spring pattern on the west coast – rain.

I’m not a big fan of rain and I’ve been working on my attitude toward it since I moved here 3 years ago. I’m developing my appreciation for the spectacular gardens, the lushness in the forest and, with the constant possibility of a water shortages, I’m happily imagining the reservoir filling. 

But when I woke up this morning, I heard the rain pounding on the skylight and the first thought that popped into my head was, “Ugh, more rain.” I immediately felt disappointed and, in 3 seconds flat, my subconscious had set a mood for the morning, maybe even the whole day.  

It’s kind of amazing when you think about the power of one little automatic reaction to stir up my sadness and displeasure that the sky isn’t doing what I want. Hmph.  

This is an example of attachment, which is when we cling to people, things and ideas with the false belief that they’ll bring us happiness. For example, I’ll be happy when I have matching furniture, a certain job, recognition... I’ll be happy when my son speaks to me respectfully. I’ll be happy when it’s sunny. 

We attach to things because, as humans, we have inbuilt needs to feel safety, belonging, dignity and a sense of control of our lives. We build up unconscious, rigid beliefs about how people and situations are supposed to be, only to be disappointed when they aren’t. 

The mind does this all day long… when traffic is moving slowly, when your teen didn’t do their homework, when the sink is clogged, when you spill your soup on your shirt, when your coworker cracks an inappropriate joke, etc. You get annoyed, honk your horn, yell at your kid, accuse your plumber, blame yourself… 

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to respond when things aren’t as we want them to be; sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed to fuel our action. If you see someone dumping garbage on the beach, you intervene. If your friend isn’t treating you the way you deserve to be treated, you reevaluate the relationship. 

But whenever things aren’t going the way you want them to, there’s wisdom in assessing if you’re over-attached to a certain outcome.

  • Are you seeing things clearly? Is the traffic any slower than yesterday? Is it your fault that your soup container leaked? Is your son being disrespectful or just uncommunicative?

  • Are you creating extra suffering for yourself by thinking that things that are out of your control should be in your control? Are you putting energy into blaming, lamenting, demanding, wallowing or criticizing? “Why is this happening? When will this be over? Why don’t they do it the way I told them?”

  • Are you making it worse for yourself by trying to change an unchangeable situation, like trying to impose your opinion, forcing someone to do it your way or constantly butting in and taking over?


Releasing attachment doesn’t mean being passiveIt means seeing things clearly, witnessing the moment as it is, and recognizing what’s in your control.

What you Try to Control

As your kids become increasingly independent from you and grow into their own ways of being, more and more aspects of their lives become beyond your control. That’s how it is in this stage of parenting and how it must be. Period.

To practice non-attachment means to recognize the areas in which you no longer have control. You don’t have control over who your daughter hangs out with at lunch. You don’t have control over how your son does his job. You don’t have control over your child’s emotions, opinions or mental processes. 

As you read this, what’s coming up for you?

In what areas are you over-attached to things being the way you want them?

I keep trying to have control over _____

I’m creating extra suffering for myself by _____________

I’m making it worse in our relationship by __________

I actually don’t have control over _______

This realization makes me feel ______


Witness the Moment as it Is

When you’re over-attached to the idea that a certain person or situation will bring you happiness, you’re stuck waiting for that outcome instead of living life in real time. Part of your consciousness is scanning for the ‘ideal’ conditions and, therefore, is not taking in all the other aspects of the current moment.

For example, if I’m fixated on the wrongness of rain, I fail to see that the hyacinths are opening. If you’re constantly monitoring your son’s tone of voice for respect, you’re missing the fact that he’s confiding in you at all.

What's needed here is to turn down your expectations for things to be a certain way, to catch yourself when you’re whining, blaming or criticizing. To notice when you’re trying to force your desired outcome and creating a whole lot of suffering in doing so, for yourself and your family.

Witness the moment as it is.

What is really happening? Take a breath and sense the energy around you. Open your eyes a little wider. Step back a millimeter. Be awake.

What is really happening? Inhale and allow yourself to be impacted. Take in the raw components, without judgements and expectations, the bare-bones truth, the essential qualities and the blessings.

What you Can Control

I cannot control the rain, but I do have control over how I dress when I go out, which trails I walk on and how long I stay out. I have a weather app.

Most importantly, I have control over how I think about the rain. When I recognize that it’s my choice, I feel more optimistic and content. I stop lamenting about what I cannot change, see more clearly where I have choice and consciously engage.

Returning to what you named above, make a list of what you do have control over.

And when you look over that list, what stands out for you?

How do you want to move forward?

What’s one step you will take?



The way I see it, I am not here to control my kids’ journeys through life. I know that they will grow as they will grow.

Yes, they do stuff I don’t want them to do. Yes, I get anxious, angry and triggered. Yes, I say and do things I regret later. And that’s part of my self-development journey. Theirs is still their own.

One day, I will pass away and their lives will continue without my input. And so, I let them have the reigns now, surrender control, moment by moment, so they will learn how to navigate their adult lives. I do this with great big love for them and I trust that their futures will be wonderful, difficult, joyful, meaningful, heartbreaking, inspiring, loving… that they will be what they will be.






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