You are not alone.
I have been looking after two of my grandchildren for the last six days. Having loved them from the moment I saw them, my relationship with them was sealed. As I am with them this week, memories of all the phases of their lives flash before me. I have been fortunate to have witnessed their unique personalities which emerged as they navigated their world of school, friendships and family. But now, I am finding myself challenged by how to help them with this phase of life called adolescence. Bodily changes, the fierce need for independence, knowing they need to find their own way in a land that they cannot share with their parents, and the minefield of teenage relationships. Yes, I have been through the teenage years with my three sons, but this is different. Social media and the drug culture have made this transition so much more difficult. I have worked with adolescents in my profession over the years but the pressures on our youth today is like none I have ever seen. In this week I have seen my grandsons’ struggle with what they know is right and what is expected by peers. They do not want to disappoint their grandparents, yet the pull to be accepted by friends and independence from authority figures keeps tugging at them. I see my grandchildren feeling a new level of guilt as they try to figure out how to deal with their love for us and this adolescent world. I see both their love and their pain. It is heart breaking. I find myself at a loss on how to support them.
We have been having deep conversations about their lives. While they don’t disclose specifics, I see them dancing around the edges: dropping hints wanting me to know yet not ready to reveal. Loyalty to friends is of prime importance but…what if you have two set of friends and they do not get along? How do you find a way to make peace without losing all your friends? In which group can I risk being myself? Or do I have to continue to hide part of myself to fit in? Who are the people who will be in my life in the long run? One of my grandsons explained to me that there are clicks which operate in schools. You need to find one and stick with it. But what if you change? What if you realize that the group you chose does not really serve you? What if you just don’t know who you are anymore? So many questions! When I look at my grandsons I see the beautiful souls in front of me. I want to protect them, but I know all I can do is continue to love them and let them know I see who they are. I have and will continue to commit to being with them during all the messy part of this difficult phase of life. I want them to know they are part of a tribe that has their backs. Having a tribe helps them know that they belong to something bigger. As a grandmother and an elder, I can make sure that they are reminded that even as they explore this world of adolescence they belong to a tribe of family and friends who love and support them. I want them to know they are not alone.