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Growing (Up) Together

Writing a new parenting script, one where our children become our teachers
Multigenerational family with grandmother, infant, and mother

What do you learn as a parent? When we think of the answers to that question, we mostly think in terms of our children's early years — of qualities like patience and selflessness, or of all that we don't know. As our children age into adolescence, the narrative shifts, and relationships evolve in ways that aren't always comfortable. But in her new book, sociologist and educator Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot reimagines adolescence as a period when deeper learning can begin, learning that can extend through the rest of our lives, as our now-adult children can transform us, emotionally and even intellectually.

The book, called Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers, is based on in-depth interviews with parents across the country. It chronicles the many and unexpected possibilities for enrichment that occur when we open ourselves to the lessons our adult children have to teach.

The parent-child relationship, Lawrence-Lightfoot shows, is more reciprocal than cultural stereotypes would have us believe. As children become adults, parents can learn from their expertise, their experiences, and their worldviews — and they can expand their own skills, interests, and worldviews in the process. Here, she discusses how we can open ourselves to these new possibilities by allowing for change.

Watch part I of the conversation with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

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