THE BLOG

GPS for the Parent of a Teenager's Soul

02/22/2013 12:14 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2013

I am not an expert in teenage psychology or parenting. I am in thick of my first child being a teenager, so goodness knows that I am making lots of mistakes. I am aware that learning from those mistakes may or may not serve the next two coming up to the teen years. But what I am is an observer of life, a parent, a teacher and, probably, an over-sharer. Whatever I learn, I want to share in hopes that it's useful to the next person.

So, here's something I learned recently. It's probably better said that I re-learned it or was re-minded of it, because I knew it but was not putting it into action.

Last month, when I was in Mexico, I had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth under beautiful trees on a windy, colder-than-expected day. I'd walked labyrinths before, but it was the first time I was aware of the meaning of the six semicircles that kind of create a "six-leaf" clover at the center of the maze.

As I wrapped by scarf tighter around me and put my hands inside my poncho for warmth, I brought my teenager to mind. He was my question. What would improve our relationship? How do I make our everyday more loving and less adversarial?

Despite the biting wind, I took my time, following the zig-zag yet circular path into the middle of the labyrinth. When I got to the "leaves" of the clover, I thought of each word that I was told symbolizes each one: mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angelic, divine. Keeping my question in mind, I heard and felt nothing but peaceful inquiry until I entered the divine "leaf." There, the answer came.

Divine. I was not spending much time seeing or honoring the divine in my moody, rude, seemingly-ungrateful oldest child. I was reacting to all the behavior and mishaps happening in our mutual space and not focusing on his most innocent, beautiful, loving core.

It sounds so simple and maybe obvious, but I was awestruck at the truth of it and the instant sense of peace and elation that permeated my being as I moved back out of the labyrinth.

"I got it. I got it," I said to myself as I walked. I felt confident and resolved to go back home with his "divine" being my priority and focus.

How is it going? Five weeks later, we've had two or three minor hiccups. They used to be daily, so I consider that to be tremendous progress. We have plenty of light moments of laughter. We've had many hugs (that are reciprocated) and there has been some improvement in our ability to communicate in ways that are acceptable to each other.

My pitfalls are wanting him to be a better student and participating as a "citizen" of the house, as I call the requisite pitching in. Those I won't give up on, but they are being approached with encouragement instead of what I know was being heard as harsh criticism.

Expert? No. Miracle worker? Not yet. But my over-sharer hopes you'll consider the divine in your teenager's soul as hard as it might be to find. The prize? Relative peace, and the knowing that with this strategy, you'll do no harm.

For more by Laura Berman Fortgang, click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.