The compasses and maps of parenting

Contributed by Melanie Miller, M.Ed.

I had the recent opportunity to take my daughter and her friends orienteering. Orienteering is where you use a map, compass and your powers of observation to navigate through a course of pre-set checkpoints. It’s a great way to explore the outdoors, discover new hikes and learn some map and compass skills. At each checkpoint, you study your map, set your compass and begin the trek to next check point, watching for landmarks along the way.

As we moved along the trail, I thought about my own parenting and what might be my parenting compass; the words, or phrases that keep me moving in the direction that I want to move in as a parent. I decided that I have a few parenting compasses. My compasses are:
– parenting with respect; having respect for myself, my child and the situation and,
– parenting with love instead of fear.

In order to follow my compass (my parent direction), I need a strong map complete with parenting tools, concepts and language that can help me to continue moving in the direction that is important to me.

Because my children are entering the teen years, I began to think more about my parenting compass and how it is being challenged as I move into the next phase of parenting. With the on-set of teen years, my map is looking a little faded, the landmarks have changed. Some trails have been removed and some new ones are being added. The new ones are scary, I haven’t been down this path before and sometimes I feel alone, frustrated and confused. I also worry that I‘m unraveling the relationship with my children that I have worked so hard to develop.

In order to update my parenting map I registered for a teleconference on “understanding the adolescent brain” and read a recent National Geographic article on “Beautiful Teenage Brains.” Having gained some knowledge by learning from others, some new landmarks are coming into view that I can now clearly recognize. I can now look back at the confusing behavior of my son and see that his brain and his body are doing the best he can as he transitions from childhood to adulthood. I can now see my part as I veered away from my compass, making my own messy, ill prepared trails.
The best part is, I now can recognize those teenage landmarks. The awareness and acceptance of these new landmarks gives me room to breathe and room to contemplate the next trail.

As I stand at this check point of parent and child transition, I will position my compass, get out my, latest in technology, GPS system, look ahead at the upcoming landmarks and take the time to keep learning what I can about this next phase of parenthood and teenage years. If you’re at a transition stage in your parenting, I hope you’ll take the time to read a helpful article, or parenting book. Take a parenting class or talk to a professional who can support you through yet another new and challenging trail of parenting.

Here are some of the resources I used:
Cascade Orienteering Club,
Feeling Felt; Understanding the Adolescent Brain and Building Connection; Telelconference with Cheryl Erwin, LMFT; http://www.positivediscipline.org (The recording of this conference can be downloaded.)
The New Science of the Teenage Brain, National Geographic, Oct. 2011, Vol. 220, No. 4, pp. 36-59.

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Teaching people to do the right thing when no one is looking ... Growing equity and democracy, on family, one student, one classroom at a time.
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