Home Will Be the Hero: Creating a Safe Place for Our Tweens and Teens

By: Michelle Mitchell

The feeling of packing your bags up and heading home is always bittersweet, especially if it wasn’t in the original plan.

Sometimes we head home because we have failed, or the journey has become too tough.

Sometimes we head home because we feel disillusioned or lost.

Sometimes we head home because it’s the safest place to be.

Sometimes we head home because we have to.

It’s been a while now since families all over Australia headed home, after saying goodbye to workmates, friends and teachers.

Although this time is unprecedented, I can’t help but think of the many, many times in my life when I have followed my inner compass to the safest, most secure place I know.  Whenever I have felt lost, alone, disorientated or afraid, home has always welcomed me with open arms.  Home may not have been plan A, but it is a Plan B I am thankful for.

I am convinced that a safe, loving, connected home is the hero right now. Home (in all its glorious mess and imperfection) has stepped up to the plate and become all that it was designed to be, and a bit more. With our loving guidance, our kids have the opportunity to grow exponentially, in ways that may not have otherwise been possible.

This growth won’t always be easy. None of us expect it to be smooth sailing. But our intentional investments today will reap greater resilience for the bright and glorious future ahead of our children. I’d love to share some calculated and simple actions that all parents can take to ensure their home becomes a breeding ground for resilience.

photo of a man and teen sitting together talking

Empathy will be the hero right now

Tweens and teens will grow when they tune into themselves, as well as others. Self-awareness, family-awareness and community-awareness are all equally important. Exchanges of empathy are what is needed to help make those connections.  That is why conversations like “This is what I see….”, and “What do you see?” are powerful.  You could also try, “This is what I feel…” and “How do you feel?”

Compassion will be the hero right now

Tweens and teens will grow by processing deep disappointments and accepting things they can’t change.  As freedom is being re-defined, they will experience a range of strong emotions. At times they will be angry. Other times they may need to fall into your loving and patient arms.  The words, “I know this is really hard” will never go astray. And always, always explain the why. Tweens and teens understand the why even when they don’t like the how.

Encouragement will be the hero right now

Tweens and teens will grow when they are identified as resilient, insightful and brave. It is easy to unintentionally label strong, capable young people as fragile and vulnerable when it has no bearing on reality. Many, many tweens and teens are not struggling with crippling anxiety. In fact, some of them are very happy about not attending school, having a pantry full of food and internet at their fingertips.  I want to remind you that they are well positioned to contribute. We can inspire them to be their best self by holding them to high expectations.

Contribution will be the hero right now

photo of a young boy mowing the lawn

Tweens and teens will grow when their hands are behind the wheel. Responsibility keeps many of us on track. When we find purpose beyond ourselves, we feel larger!  That feeling of “largeness” is a powerful feeling. I encourage you to give your tween or teen extra responsibility at the moment, rather than lightening their load. Ask them to call grandparents, wash hands before meals, do an additional chore, learn something new, exercise each day or get up on time.  Consider conversations that stem from these thoughts:  “Am I concerned about, so I will….”, “I can shine by…”,  “It would help our family if…” and “My community needs…”  

Final thought…

Growth is usually only noticed and appreciated after the fact, and a crop only picked after a season of care. I know that we will look back at this time and recognise it as a turning point of wisdom, gratitude and growth in our young ones. They will surface differently, with greater perspective. But first, home is going to hold them and teach them.

Home will be the hero right now.  

Find out more about instilling an attitude of gratitude into your family at thanks.org.au.

Article supplied with thanks to Australia’s National Day of Thanks.

About the Author: Michelle is an author, speaker and advocate for families and parenting teenagers. Michelle is also an ambassador for Australia’s National Day of Thanks.