A Blog From Your Kaiser Permanente Physicians

How to Walk with Teens

In full disclosure, this title is lifted from a bee sign. You read that right – a bee sign. Not long ago, our family of 4 (which now includes 2 full-fledged teenagers) headed out on a quaint afternoon garden trip.

It was a lovely few hours. We couldn’t imagine our luck that both teens had agreed to a garden trip with their good ol’ Mom and Dad. My daughter was excited for the lavender picking they offered. As we approached the lavender fields, we had to take a second look as we passed a sign that read:

How to Walk with Bees

  • Bees are not out to sting

  • Move slowly and calmly

  • The bee gets the right of way

  • Be relaxed

  • Smile, bees don’t like sadness

  • Don’t compete over a flower

My husband joked that we could easily replace the word Bees for Teens. I chuckled, but then read it again with Teens instead of Bees, and I realized he’s not wrong – in so many funny, touching, big, and sometimes heart-breaking ways, as I’ll demonstrate below.

Teens are not out to sting

Initially, I thought, Ha! Are you sure about this one? Because sometimes the sting of hurt and rejection that only a surly teenager can inflict sure feels intentional. But then I calm myself and reflect on the situation and realize it really isn’t intentional. It most always comes from a place of confusion and uncertainty, and a natural desire for independence as they grow into and embrace their individuality.

Move slowly and calmly

This is super-good advice when you are approaching your teen, whether they’re in the throes of an emotional crisis or if you’re just picking them up from school. Be slow and cautious in your words and movements. Not too many questions. Do. Not. Get. Rattled. Stay the course and offer comfort and support. But only if solicited.

Teens get the right of way

To the bathroom. To the car. To the fridge. Teens don’t yield nicely when it comes to these big 3.

Be relaxed

That pang of excitement you get when your teen starts talking to you and telling you stuff on the way home from school? Easy! Play it cool, and for the love of everything good, don’t show too much excitement or eagerness to hear more. You’re relaxed. Calm, cool, and collected. Fake it if you have to.

I find it’s best to avoid the litany of questions running through your brain and instead opt for the simple and open-ended, such as “how did everything go today?” Then pause (sometimes uncomfortably as you wait for a response), and you just might hear more than you expected. It’s not always easy, but worth it in the end.

Smile, teens don’t like sadness

What’s ironic about this one is that sometimes you’ll smile and get a death stare or eye roll in return. But still, teens want to see you smile. Even if they seem annoyed and uninterested. Your smile is comforting to them. Teens don’t like sadness. They won’t reveal this nugget of truth so I’m telling you. Smile and eventually it will rub off on them too.


Don’t compete over a flower

Or anything for that matter. The last word. Chocolate. The car keys. Enough said.

So, this is my story on how a 2-hour trip to a local garden with our 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son reminded me to keep perspective in view when raising teens. Finding humor and keeping love and respect at the forefront as we walk alongside these beautifully complex humans who call us Mom or Dad will keep us all connected and grounded in the long run.

Because time knows, these small moments become the ones we’ll treasure most once they leave the safety of our nest.

Thank you to the bees – they didn’t sting that day and neither did our teens – and to Maple Rock Garden for literally sending us a sign on that beautiful day.

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