Development Tasks of Parents

Jacob Eckeberger
September 27th, 2016

We’re excited to have Kerry Loescher as one of our NYWC speakers. This blog post is a great start to the conversations she’ll be navigating in her seminar: Dealing with Parents When Their Kid is a Mess. Check out more information HERE.

When did you know that you were officially a “grown up?”

For me the answer came the day I learned the importance of a muffler. I was driving a 1991 Geo Prism through a university parking lot. (Don’t judge me.  I know they don’t make this car anymore.) I had to stop quickly and hadn’t quite cleared the speed bump resulting in a large crack in the muffler.  My little car now sounded like the biggest muscle machine rumbling down the road. Even with the windows up and music blaring, I could still hear the noise as I drove around town. I searched the phone book, found a place that could fix it AND a coupon. (Seriously, don’t judge me. This is the way it was done back then.) It cost $100 to have it replaced. It was my responsibility to get it taken care of and I realized that I had just spent a LOT of money on something not very fun. Welcome to adulthood and a lot more to learn!

During the adolescent years, teens are developmentally trying to answer the question “Who am I?”

The famous developmental psychologist Erik Erikson even suggested that during this psychosocial stage the required individuation was marked by the tensions and challenges of “identity vs. identity/role confusion.”  Teens are seeking answer to questions of who they are, how they fit into the world, what they believe, and how they know the answers to these things. It’s a lot and can be a roller coaster ride of emotions and experiences! Many times parents wonder if they are living with Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde! (For the record, kids often express feeling this way too about him/her self.)

About this same time, parents are often hitting the developmental stage in their life that Erikson describes as “generativity vs. stagnation.” Parents are seeking satisfaction through productivity in their career, family, and civic interests. They want to know if they are part of something that matters and makes a difference in the “big picture.” If they look around and realize that they have invested half their life in things that don’t really matter or allow them to be productive or creative, often a feeling of stagnation and worthlessness sets in….

Now imagine being a parent working through this developmental stage and maybe work isn’t the most satisfying thing at the moment. They come home from a long day trying to convince them self that at least their family is doing okay and that they’ve done good work there…. Enter the teenager who is having an “I hate the world and you suck” kind of day…. We have a situation that is ripe for conflict and difficulty in the relationship.

Could it be that as youth workers we have an opportunity to help both kids and parents know that they are NOT crazy and this is hard?

Or to explain that it’s normal so we don’t have to freak out quite so much? Maybe we can help both groups understand what the other is going through and figure out a way to navigate it so everyone stays connected?  We have a unique place in the lives of parents and teens where we can help translate the developmental needs of parents to teens as well as vice versa in a context that is safe for all.

Personally, I think this is our super power.  Use it wisely.

kerry_smallKerry Loescher works as an instructor at Oral Roberts University teaching Youth Ministry, Outreach, and Leadership.  With more than 20+ years of profession youth work experience, Kerry’s passion is training leaders to help young people and their families connect the dots between Jesus and their everyday lives.  She and her husband Randy are the proud parents of 5 kids and a random plant that has somehow managed to survive.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.