When I was 15 my father died suddenly. Though I continued living at the same address until I left for college, it never again felt like home. That’s probably when I began looking for something that couldn’t be lost or taken away – a feeling of home inside myself.
When you meet someone who is truly at home with herself, she put others at ease by osmosis. Her self-acceptance expands to include accepting you. We are instinctively drawn to such people.
Many of your children will be graduating this spring… from elementary school. From middle or high school. From college. Big changes in store that are best weathered by kids who are at home with themselves so they can be “at home” wherever they are. Accepting of others and new situations.
How well prepared are your children for the next chapter in their lives, whatever it might be? How confident are they in their ability to cope with and adapt to what’s ahead? And what can you do to help and support them throughout? Here are some tips:
How to raise young adults who are at home with themselves
1. Create a home base that’s a safety net and a launching pad. Home should support a child’s emotional development and nurture his spirit. With a stable, loving and accepting family to return to anything is possible… even venturing into the unknown. Kids who grow up with a strong foundation are like turtles, always carrying their sense of home along with them. Remind yourself often that your parenting goal is to prepare your children for life. That means helping them develop critical thinking skills. It also means acting with compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Whenever you catch your teens doing or saying something that demonstrates these capacities, let them know you approve. It helps them develop a positive self-image, essential for feeling at home with themselves.
2. Uncertainty is not a dirty word. When you know absolutely what you stand for then you should absolutely take a stand. A great message for adolescents who often let their addiction to peer approval prevent them from doing what’s right. But uncertainty is part of life. Kids brought up to believe that doubt isn’t an acceptable emotion are reluctant to try new things. How can they be at home with themselves if they’re unwilling to experience confusion? How can they be at home in the world if they’re not open to new things that they may not immediately understand?
If you truly want them to become self-confident adults who move through life with grace and courage then let them know that it’s okay not to know. Sometimes things become clear after we’ve had the courage to venture forth armed only with uncertainty and a willingness to accept what crosses our path, take it in and learn from it.
3. Model adaptability and an open attitude. If you tend to be anxious your attitude may be making it more difficult for your kids to feel at home anywhere. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I like surprises?
- Do I enjoy: Meeting new people? Eating new foods? Listening to new music? Going to places and doing things I’ve never done before?
- Do I take time to notice my surroundings?
- Am I critical or suspicious of things/people that are different?
- When I’m feeling “out of my element” do I usually: Shut down and withdraw? Become combative and defensive? Have a drink? Crank up the volume of my social self? Acknowledge my discomfort and try to relax and become more open?
If you always need to feel in control then challenge yourself to become a bit more flexible. The more open you are to change the more adaptable your kids will be.
4. Travel, as a family. Use a family vacation as an opportunity to step back a bit and let your kids show what they’ve already learned about being at home in the world. Notice their competencies and acknowledge them. And if you’re traveling to a new place, you might take the point of view that you are strangers in a strange land together. As “strangers”, your family has a chance to observe, learn and push the edges of your collective comfort zones. Share your feelings. Yes, being in a strange new place can be scary, but it can also reinforce how strong and capable each of you are.
5. Encourage independence. As the parent of a tween or teen now is the time for you to be stepping back from center stage where you’ve managed your child’s life for years. It’s your daughter’s or your son’s turn to take over as their own manager. They’ll need that experience when they actually leave home. They’ll also need to know that “home” (including their growing self-confidence, plus your love and everything you’ve taught them) is always right there in their heart, nurturing their spirit.