I’ve heard it said before, that teens are in their “cat years” (Adair Lara, 1996). This is the time in life when our loyal and loving children, who used to be more like dogs, become distant and and indifferent young adults…or cats. Everything that worked before for us as parents, does not work anymore. In fact, it produces the exact opposite result! We must have faith in our young adults at this time. We must have faith in ourselves at this time. We must leave the door open and let them come to us.
But this is not what happens a lot of the time. We, as parents, often had our own reckless and/or tumultuous teenage period. We may remember it with shock and horror now that we are “the parent”. And so, already, we are approaching this with our own personal thinking. This allows us to listen less to our teens, and more to our insecure thinking. All of a sudden these natural changes that are happening in our teen become a personal issue clouded with guilt, fear, and often a need to control.
Think about how a cat might respond to someone who is guilty, distracted, afraid, and trying to be in control. Hence, the number of households in crisis during the teenage years! I, myself, remember the period between 5th grade and senior year being a long, hard road. This is perhaps why I love to work with this population so much. It is such and important period of life in terms of development and life choices. Yet it is also complex, because as a teen you are seeking independence, but at the same time, you need to feel the support and admiration of your parents in some way.
The “cat years” are the time for us, as parents, to become very good listeners, and in touch with our own confidence. It is a time for us to rest assured (the opposite of panic and fear) that we have the wisdom inside of us to handle this change with love and even grace! If you listen closely to your teen, while keeping your own thinking at bay, you will hear that your loyal dog is still in there. If you listen carefully, you will be aware of what they need and you’ll know how to offer it. Let’s be the parents we wanted when we were full of hormone surges and knew it all!