Moving my Teenage Son to Adulthood

I wrote a letter to my son recently, while he was away on a scouting adventure camp. During very first big trip (3 weeks) away, he had some exhilarating experiences and had grown up a lot.

At one point towards the end of the camp, he called and expressed to both of us his concern about re-integrating into our normal, busy, and rather child- focussed life here at home. This letter was my response to him, as a means of helping him to direct his focus:

Hi Son,
I meant to send you this text on the weekend. I know you are a little concerned about coming home, given the awesome experience you’ve had over the past three weeks.

It’s not just the activities you’ve done, it’s also the freedom you’ve just experienced for the first time in a big way. At 15 (actually, almost 16!!), I know you have just begun to see the big, wide world. It’s awesome, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about the best way to help you with integrating back into normal life. Coming home to a family, to normality filled with busy loud, little people is probably the last thing you want to do. The truth is, there isn’t an easy way, but I have thought of 3 or 4 tips that might help:

1. Attitude.
You knew this was going to be first, didn’t you? It’s really important for you (and us) that you prepare yourself for how you are going to feel. Spend some time visualising coming back into the house, where you sleep, eat, shower, relax, do your schoolwork. Think about those things which are going to tick you off, the things you hate, and remind yourself that they will still be here, waiting to tick you off again. But, rather than just going through the same cycle like before, visualise ways to better cope with those things. Think of positive responses you can make rather than being angry out of frustration. Think of an escape plan- some where you can go or something you can do, that, peacefully, will allow you to step away from the situation.

2. What’s the plan, man?
You’re nearly 16. It’s no coincidence that you have had an incredible time away and you want more of that feeling, more freedom and less restriction. It’s time for you to start seriously planning. You need to start deciding what you are going to do in the immediate future, what direction your life is going to take. You must decide what work, school and activities you want to do/accomplish, and all the details that surround them: cost, travel, distance, timing.

This is not the time to decide what you want to do with your life. It’s only about the next 12 months. You may even be better to chunk it down to 3 months. It’s the NOW plan, the immediate goal setting you must do.

3. Discipline is the key
I know, I don’t really like it either, but really the only thing you can change is yourself, and that takes work. Some people find it easy, others a little harder. Making changes, whether in thought or in action requires consistent effort. That is discipline. When you get home, you must be able to discipline your thoughts. When things get to you, you have to have a ‘go-to plan’ in your head to avoid blow ups.

Remember that saying that I use: ‘Between Stimulus and Response, there is a gap’? Well that’s what you need to use here.

The stimulus is your little brother getting in your face for no reason. The response is your reaction. Between these two, that’s where your choice comes in. But, making the right choice takes discipline.

4. Know that we love you, no matter what.
This is new territory for all of us. I mean, sure, Mum and I were your age once, but we haven’t been parents like this before, the other kids haven’t had a semi grown up brother before. This is unchartered territory for the whole family.

We are all learning what works best. We are all going to make mistakes. All of us need to be patient, transparent and ready to forgive. Always. We love you, and are excited to watch as you move into this next stage of your life journey. We are privileged to be a part of it. And we are so proud of you now, and of who you are becoming.

5. Pray
This really should be at the top of the list. God has you, me, everyone in the palm of His hand. He has the plan and purpose for our lives, he has an opinion. Spend time in His presence, ask Him for help, for guidance. Lay your fears, your concerns, your frustrations at the foot of the Cross. Lay your positives there too. He is with you always.

Spend some time on these few things. Throw them around in your head and workout how they fit for you.
It won’t make everything perfect, but it might help ease the transition back into our crazy household.

See you in a few days


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