A friend of mine, we’ll call her Mary, is a single parent, a business owner, and the mother of an angry teenage daughter. Naturally, she needs a place to vent, so we talk a lot about her situation. Lately the daughter, we’ll call her Jane, has decided she’s not that interested in school. She stays up late, says she feels sick, and if she does make it in to school, sleeps through most of her classes. They are engaged in a classic power struggle, and their relationship has deteriorated precipitously.
On a recent weekday evening, Jane and Mary were in the living room sort of watching TV, and Jane was on her cell phone with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is problematic; he has dropped out of high school, is living at home, and his mother has pretty much thrown up her hands in terms of trying to impose any structure on his life. He has become Jane’s support network when she is fighting with Mom, so naturally Mary sees him as the enemy.
There’s a lot to be said for the concept of balance — it’s important to be aware of it in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Being in balance in your own life is a key to helping others recognize when they might be out of balance.
In working with teenagers and their families, I find that it’s easy for relationships to get unbalanced quickly, and without anyone recognizing their own part in the imbalance. One of the key ingredients is balancing acceptance and change. In other words, what parts of my life can I learn to accept, and what parts demand that I make changes?
I’ve been reading Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, by Dr. Mel Levine, and he articulated this concept of balanced relationships between teens and parents better than I’ve heard it anywhere else. He has a number of spectrums, I guess you’d call them, which provide clear guidelines for families to assess areas of their relationships which might be unbalanced. To see these, read on!