After 38 years and with infinite humility, I am packing up my therapist’s shingle.
I’m not mentioning this to garner fanfare nor kudos.

It has been the privilege of my lifetime to work with a population of teenagers and their families who’ve taught me more than I could have hoped to learn in an entire lifetime.

Having spent my days in the presence of hundreds of magnificent young women, men, and their special grown-ups, I merely wish to share my observations.
I am not claiming expertise, only what I have discovered in my tiny corner of the world.

1. Going to Disneyland ends up being somewhat meaningless in the giant scheme of life. Kids never report it as a special memory when asked what they hold near and dear in their recollections. They do speak of carpet picnics and running in the rain, blanket forts during snowstorms and waving to the Man in the Moon.

2. Bottle-fed and breastfed babies all face the same struggles as teenagers.

3. Two-parent households are not a guarantee or determinant of anything really good or really bad happening in the life of a teenager.

4. Single-parent households are not a guarantee or determinant of anything really good or really bad happening in the life of a teenager.

5. Listening is the most important thing we offer someone over the age of 12 and under 21. That includes listening to their mumbling and moodiness.

6. That, and a curfew.

7. Consistent boundaries breed security.

8. Teenagers see and hear everything.

9. They don’t like it when you try to act all cozy and cute with them.

10. They always want to know they matter and that means on a daily basis.

11. They feign disliking affection. They’re fibbing.

12. The quieter ones are not necessarily the ones to worry most about.

13. Knowing how to have fun is a key component of their healthy upbringing. Start with a cardboard box.

14. Body image is an issue for every teenager.

15. Peers have more power than parents.

16. Who your kids are hanging out with is more important than half of what is going on at home.

17. The sex talk should happen early on. They already know as much or more than you by 10 or 11.

18. Teens need privacy. Allow them to close their door with the understanding that it cannot be locked.

19. Always knock before you enter their room.

20. Give your teenager decorative freedom. Their room is an extension of the identity they’re discovering.

21. If it won’t kill them then let it go. The biggest battles of all tend to happen when they’re no longer teens. Save your energy and your willpower.

22. The MOST important thing a teenager needs is for you to be their PARENT not their FRIEND. That comes much later on in life and it is a glorious time indeed.

23. Parents need praise, too.

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Lisa Leshaw

Lisa Leshaw has worked as a mental health professional for the past 31 years. She currently conducts Parenting Skills Workshops, Group Counseling for Blended Families and Empowerment Circles for Women. As a consultant, Lisa travels throughout teaching Communication and Listening Skills, Behavioral Management Techniques and Motivational Strategies. To de-stress she performs in children's theatre and plays piano whenever requested. She is hoping to either write the next memorable musical composition or Great American Novel!

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