It’s been almost a year since my last blog. Life is becoming more and more hectic in Armenia. I remember when we first arrived here to settle, almost 12 years ago; scarce cars on the streets, few supermarkets, less restaurants, more street sellers, more historical buildings… less sarcasm, more belief in the future. Today, so many cars everywhere, it is almost impossible sometimes to beat the traffic. Politically and socio-economically things are not getting better; people are leaving the country in search of a better life. Those who stay, try different ways to survive or counter the harsh reality of the lack of democracy, absence of rule of law and high corruption.
Our kids are growing. We have two teenagers. And for the first time in 14 years, our house is diaper-free! (A huge difference in our family budget!)
As parents, we are adapting to the reality of raising teenagers in Armenia. Challenges are rising, especially when juggling communications between your 14 and 4 year old. On the other hand, things are becoming easier in certain areas; the older ones are becoming more independent, helping with the younger ones from time to time so we can balance our life and work. But with more independence, we, as parents are learning to deal with new fears; fears of letting go, fears of worrying that something tragic could happen to them, fear of seeing them get hurt, or lost…
We are in a new stage of our lives. Although the transition has been bumpy, we’ve made it through so far. We know it will take a while the storm to simmer so, are preparing for it.
The key was communications and how to adapt it to the new reality with our teenagers. We also reflected a lot on our role as parents, on the things we value and reviewed our priorities. We transitioned from a state of complete desperation where no one would understand what the other was saying or feeling to a state of renewed balance and well being, where everyone’s story was the most important to listen to. We practiced compromises and reminded each other, as parents what was essential at the end of the day; to offer support and unconditional love to the new growing adults in our home, to see the different (and more recurring) crisis in our house as part of growing up and also a way to seek independence, very much needed for a healthy life. We finally found a way to let them live their crisis in peace! I see around me many parents, who during these sensitive times stop communicating with their teens, or always try to be the “right” one… not leaving space for their kids to breath and express themselves. I don’t have perfect solutions, but I am trying to find a middle ground so no one looses himself or herself in the process.
Of course, it was important to remind ourselves to take care of each other as parents, as well. Today, we are taking turns in addressing issues; we are taking breaks when needed, we are giving space to each other to have our own projects, travels. We are reviewing and planning our vacations, work, and time so it fits the new reality. We are spending more time one on one with the kids compared to before when we used to do most of the things together. We are staying long late hours after the younger ones are asleep to talk about important issues and listen the daily concerns of our teens. We are also experiencing new hairdos, piercings and fashion; often the subject of criticism by many, but an essential part of growing up, self-discovery, creativity and expression.
So I am trying to gather important tips based on real experiences we face as parents and share it with others. Here is my first tip and hoping that others will share their own:
Tip #1: Communication is key. Never stop communicating with your teenagers, even if the conversations often become over emotional, draining, challenging and loud. These conversations will sometimes put you down, make you feel inapt as a parent, will attack the core of your values, almost give you a heart attack, BUT, they are the essential part of holding to your most precious relationship with your growing teens. These conversations can happen at any time (don't worry if you are a working parent), early morning while brushing your teeth, after work, in private messages on FB while you are running a staff meeting, by phone while on their way back home in public transport, on Skype while your are traveling... the important thing is to keep it going on a REGULAR basis. Start with yourself, about your day, ups and downs. Also an important factor is to ask for advice from your teen during those conversations for yourself as much as giving it to her/him. Sometimes they have such creative ways to resolve some of your own problems; it's worth to listen. Important reminder: keep your voice friendly and caring, non-threatening, non-judgmental and most of all NO sarcasm (you need some prep for this part, meditation, yoga, drinks? :) , specially when important topics are discussed. As it is they feel uncomfortable with some issues about themselves, so they don't need your sarcasm to deal with on top of that.
To conclude, some conversations would seem unsuccessful but it is ok, the next one will be better, don't give up. You will become better with practice and this will also improve your communication skills both in the workplace and during tough negotiations with other adults in your community and surroundings.