If you’re reading this, chances are you used to read your kid(s) bedtime stories. I have heard that historically this tradition (dating back to preliterate culture) began in order to preserve and summarize the experiences of the day, to infuse them, too, with the magical, fantastical and occult, which served as a bridge to sleep and the world of dream.
Whether or not this is true, it certainly seems accurate to me that we read our kids bedtime stories to put a decisive end to the day, to seal the completed cycle of 24 hours (even if they wake up to ask for water or because their dreams have turned bad later). My experience in working with parents of teenagers is that it’s a very difficult and often scary developmental stage–not only for the teens, but for the parents. As the teens prepare to launch across the chasm (which they’ve been gazing at for some time) from childhood to adulthood, they hunger for experiences of mastery to assure them they’ll be ok–or, on the other hand, they seek comfort and may subconsciously make choices that keep them rooted in the nest. Parents, for their part, are also often torn–between the excitement of a new, freer phase in their lives and yet anxiety about the cruel world’s intentions with their beloved kids–no, young adults (gulp!). Parents may therefore also behave in ways that seek to keep the family tethered despite consciously believing they are supporting their kids into flight.
Because of the complexity, there is tremendous potential for confusion, miscommunication, hurt feelings, and real conflict in families with teenagers. With much experience navigating this stage, I truly enjoy helping young people find voices that their parents can understand, to ask for assurance and yet for closure. To speak truth about what moves them to act out. To name their disappointments and joys with their families and prepare to move on with those lessons. Counseling and therapy can frame this experience with far less destruction!
I think of the things that parents and teens say to each other when they’re able to speak most courageously and honestly as good morning stories. The dawn of a new kind of relationship.