One of the joys of life is the opportunity to learn from others.

Since I wrote "Lose, Love, Live" I have had numerous opportunities to do workshops on grief and loss.  One workshop resulted in an insight that had never occurred to me.

Mark, a youth minister who was in the group listened to me talk about how people respond when they experience a loss. I talked of how people often feel scared when they are losing something that really matters. Anger is generally present in those times.  Anger is normal because anger is a physical response to threat. When we feel threatened the body dispenses adrenaline in our system to give us energy to fight what threatens us, flee from it, or freeze so that the threat might not notice us.  When we lose something that helps us know who we are, we are threatened and get angry.

After the workshop Mark came up to me and said, "This explains the conflict that I deal with all the time when I work with youth and their parents.  At the same time teenagers are reaching for their independence, they are also losing the security and safety of dependence.  Parents, while encouraging independence, are losing the relationship they had with children who were more under their control. That is why there is so much anger."

Mark's observation is important.  Parents and teenagers alike are losing life the way they knew it.  As changes happen, no one is totally confident on how life will turn out. While there is much to celebrate in the new place that both the parent and the teenager occupy, there is much to fear.  That fear results in feeling threatened and thus in feeling anger.

Since this is one of the dynamics between parents and teenagers, knowing that each is dealing with loss can help. Each can listen to the other and help the other explore what is so frightening about these changes. Each can explore what they are afraid they will lose and try to determine if there are grounds for that fear. Some losses may not occur. For example, the normal distancing that happens as a young person becomes independent does not necessarily mean that the relationship will disappear.

When you feel anger rising in your relationships, ask yourself, "What am I afraid I am going to lose?"  It might help you understand and navigate the turbulent waters of parenting.