The end goal of parenting is to raise young adults who are capable and ready to leave. How sad is that? All this effort put into creating and raising pretty amazing human beings and the goal is they will leave us!?! In parenting, a job well done is our children leaving. And every day is a preparation for that leaving. We have many leavings; first days of school, first sleepovers, weeks away at camp, and ultimately college and independent lives.
We can choose to dread that day or to welcome that day with anticipation and hope for a new relationship and a new chapter. To help with the leaving, develop a litany for leaving with your kids.
A litany in religious places means a prayer with a series of responses shared by the leader and the group. A litany is also defined as a repetitive chant or a lengthy recitation. What I love about this word is it means a series of responses between one group and another. I am always looking for a way to have a simple conversation or back and forth sharing of information with my teenager. On top of a good excuse to communicate, it says right in the definition that a litany is lengthy. That almost sounds like I’m allowed to nag and annoy my teenager : ). A litany is repetitive. I can say the same thing a million times over in the hopes that it sinks in and becomes routine and known to my teenager. I love that my words will get stuck in their brain! I hope they will someday hear me. Hear my voice, hear my words, but most importantly, hear my love and my guidance and my deepest desire for their safety. I want them to know as they grow and leave, I will still be here. I will still be a voice to hear; a person who loves them, a safe place to return anytime they need a snack or a hug or a place to crash. I envision them carrying those words into their adult life and feel my love whenever and however they need it. As I am about to send a teenager out into the world as a new driver, I am terrified and excited. The leavings are about to begin more and more regularly. The leavings may be farther and farther. And the big leaving of moving out is just around the corner. Here is how our leavings go…
Me: What are your plans?
Teenager: Going to a friend’s house and watching a movie.
Me: Do you have gas?
Me: Do you know how to get there?
Me: Do you have your phone?
Me: Do you know what time you need to be home?
Me: Do you know who you are?
(My teenager knows that means about an hour’s worth of pep talk on making good decisions, safe decisions, being kind, being a person of good character, living her truth, setting expectations for herself and sticking to them. Basically every lecture and hope and dream I have for a solid, strong, healthy kid who can navigate the world in a way where she is safe and she is loved. You can see why the shortened version is preferable to her. Having a therapist mom has to be hard on this poor kid)!
Teenager: yes mom (insert eye roll and irritation)
Me: I love you.
Teenager: I love you too.
The litany is said every time she heads out. My hope is that the routine and predictability while annoying now, no doubt, becomes an internal voice that speaks to her anytime she needs to hear the words or know that she is loved.
What is your repetitive, lengthy litany for your kids?
Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: