Regardless of how independent teenagers think they are, parents play a large role in shaping their lives. As kids grow older and shape their individual identities, parents attempt to impart on them important lessons and values to help guide them down the right path. However, it is often difficult for families to balance a teenager’s new freedom and the parents’ influence as a role model. Children should be able to explore various beliefs by themselves while parents should work alongside them to foster that independence.
I was raised in a diverse household; my mother is originally from Cuba and was raised in a very Catholic family. My Bronxite father, on the other hand, is Jewish but fairly non-religious. My childhood memories are full of both Hanukkah and Christmas, bar mitzvahs and quiceñeras. Because my household was full of different beliefs and perspectives, I never felt forced in any one direction and I was fairly free to explore my own passions.
However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this melting-pot of a childhood. Since I was a mix between different cultures, I never felt part of any one community. As a result, my identity resembled more of a blank slate than a colorful mix. Instead of one clear path for me to follow, I felt pulled between multiple ways of life. While building your own beliefs from scratch is a difficult feat, especially as a teenager, this opportunity helped me grow as an individual. Sorting through these conflicting beliefs ultimately developed my strong sense of self and outspokenness.
While my parents did not forcibly guide my religious and political beliefs, they taught me compassion, empathy, and the importance of questioning societal standards. The main difference between these two categories of values is that while the former are set and concrete, the latter are a foundation for growth and maturity that I will continue to apply to all aspects of my life. I believe that this philosophy of parenting– acting as a role model as opposed to a dictator– ultimately establishes both independence and maturity. Religion and politics are important, and while children should be exposed to these traditions and principles, it is ultimately more meaningful for teenagers to learn about more practical values.
It is crucial for parents to recognize their children as individuals. By exploring new activities and finding new ideas, teenagers inadvertently distance themselves from their family. Parents needs to accept their children’s new sense of independence and stifling it will most likely result in tension, aggression, and dependence. On the other hand, submitting too freely to the impulses of their children can lead to regrettable decision-making. However, if parents are strong role models, their children will have the tools to handle this newfound freedom responsibly and develop their personal identity.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Isabella Levine of Richard Montgomery High School