The next few months may mark an uneasy season for parents whose teens are ready to leave their nest.
In her latest column for the New York Times, "The Teenager With One Foot Out the Door," psychologist Lisa Damour tackles the mixed emotions parents and their children feel as teenagers transition to life on their own as they move on from high school into college.
Damour said it is difficult for parents and their kids to be on the same page.
"The parent is thinking about loss, the teen is anxious, really excited. So everybody's going in different directions and the parents want to connect while the teens don't want to connect so much," Damour explained on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.
According to Damour, teens "move out psychologically before they move out physically," a shift that happens as early as when they are 12 years old. Social life becomes central and they begin making mental preparations to leave home, beginning with simple gestures such as shutting the bedroom door.
"If they think about their friends or they think about their romances, they don't have to think about saying goodbye to their family," Damour explained. "And I think that sometimes what looks like misbehavior or detachment or being uninterested is actually a stressed teenager trying to manage big feels about leaving."
So what could help alleviate the heartbreak for parents? First and foremost, Damour said, do not take it personally.
"Their job is to move away, their job is to become independent," Damour said.
It may not be the same as having the kids physically present at home, but Damour offered these tips for parents to help them cope and guide their teens through the transition:
- Remember teens move out psychologically long before the physical move.
- Offer parting guidance, but keep it short.
- Be clear about expectations.
- And for parents whose kids are away in college, look forward to Thanksgiving.
Here is what not to do:
- Take teenagers' detachment personally.
- Have expectations of long heart-to-heart talks.
- Assume this is the end of parenting.
"There's a next chapter in a story. This is not the end of the story, so I think if parents can relax and say, 'This is a moment in my life as a parent, this is a moment in my adolescent's life.' There will be many moments after this," Damour said.
Once teens leave home, another major concern for parents is their safety, especially in light of devastating tragedies like the Orlando nightclub massacre.
"'I think that the useful thing we can do is we can say: 'At the end of the day, nothing matters like safety and I as your parent do everything I can to keep you safe and when you're not with me, I need you to do everything you can to keep you safe,'" Damour said.
Damour said such conversations present opportunities for teens to discuss their decisions about risky interactions such as drinking and driving.
"There are things we can't control. There are a lot of things teenagers can control. And these can become moments when we return to those and the importance of safety," Damour said.
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