It's a small pimple on her forehead on a Friday morning.
It's a tiny stain on the front of his shirt discovered on the way to the school social.
We are only two minutes late for the football game.
I lingered a moment when I dropped her off in front of the school.
What is the big deal? Why do these seemingly small and inconsequential moments become flashpoints in our relationships with our pre-teen/teen?
The answer is in the title..."But Mom, it IS a big deal to me!"
You can't argue this with your child. It is a big deal to them. It doesn't matter how irrational it may seem. It doesn't matter how small the issue actually is, it is a big deal to them.
One of the most difficult things for me to remember about living with a teenager is how small their frame of reference truly is. It was only yesterday that my child was just that, a child. They seemingly had not a worry in the world. Now, as a pre-teen/teen, everything is a BIG DEAL!
Pre-teens and teens are trying on their wings of independence and doing the hard work of figuring out who in the world they are. They have all of these confusing and confounding chemicals at work in their body that make them emotional and sometimes irrational. As parents, it is hard for us to understand how our child has changed so much in such a short amount of time. We must remember that it is even more difficult for our young person to understand the changes that are going on in their life and body. The truth is these things are indeed a big deal to them.
So, what is a parent to do? Listen. It is really hard work, but we must listen. There is a lot of anxiety in our young person's life. Yes, it is nothing like the anxiety that you and I face on a day to day basis, but that does not make it any less stressful. Remember, their frame of reference is indeed very short. Saying something like, "It will all be better in a few short months;" or "By the time you are 20, you won't even remember this" is like telling them that things will never change. A few short months when you have only lived 14 years is a LONG time. By the time you are 20 is something that they can't even begin to fathom. They aren't even sure they are going to make it to 20.
The most important thing that we can do is listen to their concerns and worries and let them know that we aren't going anywhere. Young people often feel as though they are facing the storms all alone. Remind your young person, by word and deed, that you will walk with them through any of the storms they will face. They need to be reminded that there are people committed to being there even when their life is confusing or disappointing, and even when they make a mess of things. We must be careful not to minimize the storm that they are currently facing, and we must be careful not to allow it to become a destructive hurricane. And we must remember that the storm will pass, no matter how fierce. We will face it together.