You're OK, kid

Years ago, when my kids were climbing out of their toddler years and starting school, I came across a fascinating theory about childhood development.

It went something like this: A child’s trust belongs to his mom until about age 7.

After that, the child transfers that same trust to his father to carry him into his tween years. As the child grows into a younger teen, that trust is passed onto other adults outside the home before, eventually, in the middle- and late-teens years, they hand it off to their peers.

I’ve done so much reading about teens, trying to understand the changes my teen in particular might be going through now.

And, recently, it struck me: I’m also dealing with big changes, too.

I had a certain rhythm down, a certain confidence in the way I parented and communicated with my kids. But now I’m trying to learn how to parent a teen, and it’s different than parenting a child.

It’s like everything I’d known or felt confident in is being challenged by testosterone and my son’s growing sense of identity.

And he’s facing new challenges I want to help with, but can’t because of this changing mother-son, parent-child landscape. He’s grappling with the heavier responsibilities of high school work, his ability to organize and manage his workload, plus the added stress of his extracurricular activities.

As I’ve tried to understand his challenges and changes, I’ve taken full advantage of my trusted friends, who have allowed me to complain and whine about this new phase of life.

So, I figure, it’s only fair that my teen should be allowed his own opportunities to whine and complain through his growing pains — and that the person he may need to complain to right now may not be me.


Our son is at a stage where my husband and I just have to trust that everything we’ve poured in will stick with him and be an indirect form of guidance.

My place of authority is starting to take a back seat. It’s up to my son to see how he can do things for himself. My attempts to interfere with this so I can be comfortable will, I believe, only send him a message that he can’t manage life without me or that he isn’t capable on his own.

Although my inner struggle to let go is great, the desire I have as his mom to see him be successful wins out.


I’m also trying to remember that I’ve always been fortunate to have people around me who have listened, spoken the truth and given me advice regarding my parenting, relationships and career.

My teen may not need only me anymore, but he does need a community of people around him to help him be successful in life. And that starts now.

I want him to know it’s OK not to need only me.


I’ve challenged my son to seek out a teacher or coach at school to help him improve in his daily work accountability.

I’ve also asked three dads I know and trust — and who my son knows well — to be ready and open to communication by phone anytime. I had my son put their contact information on his phone, and I told him he could call any of these men if he found himself in a predicament that we weren’t available to discuss or that he might not be ready to share with us.

I’m realizing that giving him permission to trust is yet another skill we need to teach him. Learning to identify and seek out worthy mentors strengthens his potential.

He’s going to need this skill throughout his life.

So far, letting go a bit has made me feel closer to him. It’s like he knows I’m telling him: It’s OK, you’ve got this thing.

I trust you.


College-prep book
Minnetonka mother of two and parenting educator Beverly Gillen has published the ultimate get-going-early guide for kids and parents who have their sights set on college. Get Connected for College: The Savvy Student’s Guide to College Prep covers the top 100 college competencies, 250 make-it-happen-ideas, checklists for grades 6 to 12, scholarship strategies and much more. • $19.95