What do Kurt (Glee), Toby (Pretty Little Liars), Nelly Yuki (Gossip Girl), and Dale (Greek) all have in common?
They don’t quite fit in.
It can be an awkward or even painful experience for an adolescent to live on the outskirts of their high school society. It can also be awkward or painful for parents. What do you say? Do you push them to be “normal”? Do you try to force them to change so as to save them some heartache? Or do you let them be themselves and suffer?
Parents have the power to make the world bearable for high school outcasts. There are some concrete ways you can ease the pain of not fitting in.
Don’t make it about you
Seeing your child go through an awkward adolescence can bring back flashbacks of your own turmoil. If you were the odd man or woman out and it caused you pain, you may want to push your child not to be the same way. If you were pretty popular or had a lot of friends and enjoyed your time in high school, it can hurt and be confusing that your child isn’t having the same experience. But your child’s high school experience is not about you. So, throw your focus on your child and what you can do to help him.
Choose pressure points wisely
This is basically another way of saying, “Pick your battles.” There are times when you should push your child to behave differently. And there are times when you’ve got to back off and let them do their own thing. I’m not going to tell you which situations are which–it depends entirely on you, your child, and your family’s dynamic. But you with both end up frustrated if you try to micromanage your child’s behavior. They need outlets in which they can be themselves.
Celebrate ways your child is different
Your child is likely an outcast because he’s different somehow. Maybe he prefers to spend time in the chemistry lab than on the dance floor. I was the kid who spend hours upon hours with my head in books rather than chatting on the phone. When you figure out what makes your child different and unique, celebrate that! If your child is a bookworm, buy her more books! And encourage her to talk about the characters she meets and the things she’s learning about life. If your child feels that you’re okay with her difference, she’s more likely to accept herself.
Learn about what your child likes
There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which one of the patients is a teen and a passionate dancer. His father admits that when he had a son, he was looking forward to hockey games and cheering in the stands. When his son decided to become a dancer, he turned his focus toward that.
He cheers at recitals and has learned the names of various dance moves. He didn’t allow his disappointment to ruin dance for his son. Do the same for your child. Learn a little bit about whatever it is that they enjoy. It doesn’t mean you need to become an expert in the subject. But know enough that you’re able to have a conversation with your child about their passion and understand what they are saying.
Your child’s adolescence can be a time when they pull away from you and assert their own independence. But despite the fact that they are pushing you away, they still need you. Your unconditional love, support and nonjudgemental guidance can be crucial to your child getting through the last rough years of youth in one piece.