Recipe for a healthy happy teenager

Recipe for happy healthy teenagers Falling upwards by Sarah James

I love having teenagers in the house. I’ve loved every stage of my children’s growth, I was probably one of those women who was always meant to be a mother, but I particularly love my teenagers. I love their big gangly bodies, their sweaty stinky smell and the way they make me laugh. It’s almost as if during those teenage years a real human is being unveiled, eyes wide and blinking, curious about this world that they’ve found themselves in, super critical whilst at the same time loving every part of it. They bring perspectives to me that I haven’t thought about in ages, or maybe have never even thought of at all. And the energy and enthusiasm is endless. Anything is possible; it’s not too late, not yet.

One of the things I’ve grown to love most about my teenagers is the arguments. I know it sounds incongruous, but it’s true, I love the fact that my children are prepared to stand in front of me and argue until they’ve got their point across or until I’ve convinced them of mine. It wasn’t always this way, it’s something I’ve grown to love, something I’ve looked long and hard at and seen the gift in, the necessary learning opportunity, for them, but for me too.

When my older boys first started to argue, I mean really argue like an adult I thought I had to win. I thought I had to prove to them that I was right and they were wrong and that there was still plenty they had to learn from me. Really though it was me who had plenty to learn from them. Once I stopped trying to convince them that they needed to think like me, stopped believing that they needed to fit into the neat little life I’d carefully designed for them and instead revelled in the joy of the unfurling human spirit before me, I started to hear their side of the argument. I started to really hear what it was they were trying to say, and most of the time it was really worth hearing. I don’t mean that I stopped arguing with them, I still wanted them to have the fight, I wanted them to be smart and savvy and find a way around my point, find a way of convincing me of their side. But I did want them to feel heard and validated. I wanted them to feel their opinions mattered, even if I didn’t agree with them. And the best times were the times where they tripped me up completely and I realised that I no longer believed in what I’d started out arguing for, I was now completely on their side.

Sometimes I would argue a point beyond all reasonableness, like a dog with a bone, me in a bad mood for whatever reason, not wanting to give up. These were the times when the argument was unfair, when both of us would end up sulking and not talking until I came to the realisation that I’d gone too far, held on too long. After, when I’d calmed down and realised how off track I’d gone, I’d slink into my child’s room, sit down on the edge of the bed and apologise. The power of the apology was unfathomable. If it was coming from my heart, coming from my truth, I would see a physical impact on the teenager I was apologising to, as their body softened and sunk further into the bed they’d come to find refuge in.

Arguing, real arguing, not bickering or fighting, but arguing where both people feel heard, empowered and safe, imparts the knowledge that in this place, in this space that we call home, it’s OK, always OK for you to speak your truth. You will not be ridiculed, you will not be put down, you will not be silenced or sent away. You will be heard, you will be listened to and we promise you, with every part of our hearts we will take seriously what it is that you’ve got to say.


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