10 Essential Things Parents Need to Know About Raising Teens
As a parent, you have lived through everything, or so you thought. The sleepless nights when your infant just wouldn’t close their eyes, the unbearable cluster feedings, tiny monsters rejecting solids and spitting out healthy spinach soup you just made, toddlers turning the whole house upside down and let’s not forget those never-ending tantrums. It seems easy now, doesn’t it? Because now you must face the unreasonable wrath of an emotionally fully-charged teenager…
All parents dread the moment when their child enters the irrational and troublesome age – teenhood. While most of them are usually calm and pleasant enough, you never know what is coming next. These are headstrong, crazy days. From indulging in unfamiliar activities you don’t approve of to dealing with negative peer pressure, there is a lot to handle.
Worried about your teen’s behavior and attitude? Here is our guide to surviving the teen years as parents.
1. They Are No Longer Your Little Munchkins, but…
Oh, those cheeks you just wanted to gobble up, they are no longer the same. It was quite simple when they were 7, when they had their favorite colors, TV shows, movies, and best friends. Everything becomes chaotic when they are teens. Perhaps, they loved the color blue and Pocahontas once upon a time and couldn’t stop taking about it but ask them now and they will hardly show any interest. Or worse still, they will roll their eyes, and walk away swiftly.
As parents, you will simply have to embrace this change. Have we forgotten our own teen years? How rapidly we switched our interests and friends, how parents or anyone associated with an older generation was simply ‘uncool’. During their teen years, kids are developing their own identity and learning to assert their independence. They want parents to look beyond their grades and assignments and start treating them as the adults, they want to believe they already are.
One of my cousins often complained about her mom buying clothes for her. For her mom, it was a routine thing to do and she wasn’t ready to accept the fact that her daughter no longer wanted to be dressed up in the unfashionably large polka dots she once adored. She was rather taken aback when we brought up the problem. And one more thing, don’t ever call them ‘cutie pie’ or ‘my princess’ in front of their friends. They will never hear the end of it!
Of course, navigating the world at this age is not always easy, and everything is a learning experience, so do be prepared to console your seemingly grown-up teen when things go wrong – broken friendships or relationships, molehill problems that seem mountainous when you’re young. Somewhere in there, is still that little kid, hiding out.Teen years: navigating the world at this age is not always easy, and everything is a learning experience Click To Tweet
2. Build Trust
What happens in your home when your teen does something wrong? I am sure sullen faces, resentful glares and slamming doors are pretty common. Trust isn’t a one-way street. Both parties need to trust each other and for that, it is important to communicate openly. Set your expectations. Whenever they break the rules, instead of shouting and grounding them, talk to them strictly but calmly with an open mind.What happens in your home when your teen does something wrong? Click To Tweet
Why did they disobey? What do they expect now? Are they ready to face the music? Explain to them the pros and cons of keeping and breaking the trust. For instance, if they are back home before their curfew, perhaps you can allow them to take the family car once a month, or you can extend their curfew on weekends.
Same goes for their grades and assignments. If they are excelling at studies, you can allow them a few perks such as sleepovers and movie nights. Of course, if it is the opposite, then they should also be ready to deal with the consequences.
3. Don’t Snoop
All teenagers begin to loathe their parents when they start being overprotective and interfering. For parents, it seems like it’s the only way to keep them safe and protected from the vices of the society. But going through their journals, stalking their social media accounts and phones, and tracing their messages can put anyone off!
By openly communicating with them, it is easy to gain their confidence. Well, don’t expect them to tell you every detail of that party they attended last night, but take their word for it if they say there wasn’t any funny business. You can keep an eye on their activities without coming off too strong. Instill some rules and let them know that there will be consequences if they are broken. Set up parental controls on computers and set a limit on screen time. Your Wifi router can also be put on a timer to turn off say at midnight and not restart until morning.
While it essential to trust your teen, it is also important for them to also truly understand the dangers and pitfalls of online communications and social media. Help them understand what bullying in all it’s forms, physical, emotional, psychological and online versions look like, so they can identify it. Use our guide to learn more about social media awareness.Many teenagers begin to loathe their parents when they are being overprotective and interfering. Click To Tweet
4. Keep Communication Lines Open
When that bubbly, cheerful child turns in to a sullen, withdrawn angry teen, it’s so easy to respond in anger and frustration, with forced demands and setting ever stricter limits. However, the best thing to do is to remind yourself that, that sweet little boy, and that gorgeous little girl is still somewhere in there, hidden under layers of emotions and hardened shells of deflecting peer pressure.
Whatever your relationship is like now, compared to what it used to be, keep talking. Even if it seems to be a one-way discussion most of the time, even if you feel like you’re just talking to the wall. Ask questions, put up with the sulks and the rolling eyes; keep talking and laughing, even when it feels like an alien has taken over your teen’s body.
Essentially keep communicating and keep communication lines open. If nothing else, you’ll keep reassuring your child that you still really do care, and you still really do want to know what’s going on in their lives. Even when they’re not yet ready to open up to you, but at some point, they will and when they do, it’s so helpful for them to know that you’re there and waiting.
Highly Recommended Read: How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk (Amazon)
5. Be Patient
Living like a slob, sleeping in till mid-day, answering in grunts, illogical anger, frustration and mood swings, these are just a scratch on the surface of what it can be like to live with a teenager. Be patient though, as much as we expect our children to grow up and become the amazing, wonderful, more mature grown-ups that we visualise, the teen years are a time of huge change for those living through it.
Bodies maturing, friends judging, and brains…well, despite what we think we know. It seems that changes in the teen brain are almost the most significant of all. Apparently while the brain continually grows and ‘finishes’ growing in size by the time they are 6, the brain is in a serious state of turmoil with significant re-wiring occurring during the teenage years. This NG article beautifully details the changes that scientists have studied on brain scans throughout teenage years.
So it is really thanks to these structural changes in the brain that teens behave the way they do, well most of the time. Of course, there’s never really an excuse for bad behaviour or rudeness or bad decisions, even when your brain is in flux, it’s a case of learning to deal with it, slowly, calmly and with love and assurance.
So despite it all, remember to be patient. Take a breath, or ten, if necessary. Go for a walk, leave the room, be patient above all, with yourself, too.
6. Show an Interest in Their Hobbies
You may have been a cheer-leader in a different life, while your kid is all nerdy and into science, or you were the school editor and hated cheer-leading with disdain and find it completely useless, but your girl is truly passionate about it.
Despite our greatest efforts to raise them ‘right’, kids have a way of turning out exactly as they need to and want to. So despite it all, have you seen her, endlessly practising just to pull off that difficult move or have you noticed how good she is at encouraging her teammates? You would really have been so proud of her! Expressing interest in their hobbies, and favourite subjects, is a great way to connect with a teen. It allows them to talk to you about it. Perhaps you don’t know the names of all those moves, or your son has way surpassed you virtually non-existent astronomy knowledge, it really doesn’t matter.
Ask, be prepared to listen, show an interest, keep and eye out on exhibitions or performances that would interest them. Nothing says ‘I do care’, more than taking a genuine interest in their lives.
My father and I didn’t share a close bond. However, we both loved to read. At dinnertime, we often ended up having an animated discussion about a certain book. At such times, I felt a huge fondness for him that was often rare and missing at other times in our relationship. Let your teen know that you do care about their passions. Brace yourself, though, they might have different interests and a brand-new hobby every other day.
7. Pick Your Battles Well – Don’t Always Say No
Does your teen want to dye her hair purple and paint her fingernails black? Or did your boy just shock you by wearing funky clothes? Well, it is their age to experiment. If you stop them every time they want a change, it will only make them rebellious. Instead, stop wasting your energy and set strict limitations and expectations on the serious issues such as alcohol, drugs and tattoos.
Adulthood training, involves being able to make decisions and live with the consequences and there’s no better time to learn these than during the teen years. If your teen insists on dressing down for a part-time job interview, after discussing the potential consequences of doing so, let them make the final decision.
It’s difficult, i know, to put up with the talk-back, and the smart-ass responses, but make it a conscious point to pick your battles well. A party with way-older college students, or a weekend Spring break get-away might just be a step too far for a young teen. But saying, ‘Ok, you can go, but I’ll pick you up at mid-night,’ may be the perfect compromise.
Say ‘No’ to the things that really matter…treat everything else, as a learning experience.
8. Have ‘THE’ Talk Before It’s Too LateDon't hesitate to have 'the talk' with your teen. Click To Tweet
Don’t hesitate to have ‘the talk’ with them. The earlier they know, the better. The hormones are raging high during puberty. Kids may feel scared and confused about what’s happening to their bodies. It is better to discuss certain things like periods and wet dreams before they actually start. If they are unaware of it and it takes them suddenly, they will panic and feel embarrassed. You don’t have to tell them everything at once. Curious questions like where babies come from and differences between girls and boys usually begin much earlier.
By the time they are teens, they probably have a pretty good idea about the ‘facts of life’. However, do make sure that they actually get the facts straight, be honest and open. If you feel embarrassed, talking about sex with your teen, perhaps use a book as a starting reference point. Take your pick from some of the best selling titles on the market.
Search Books on Sex Education on Amazon
Typically their curiosity about sex and sexuality need not just about the act, but also about how decisions, emotions and interactions come in to play. The typical Hollywood blockbusters take on these issues are often too far-fetched to seem real.
Do let your teen know, that you can and will answer any questions they have, with all the honesty you can muster. Of course, if you feel too embarrassed to talk about your own personal experiences, you can always refer to a general ‘most people’ type of response.
While it is always consoling to think of your own child as virtuous and innocent, it is of utmost importance to also understand that they are now teens with raging hormones. Instead of a blanket, ‘don’t ask’ and ‘because I forbid it’, do make sure that they know about safe sex, precautions and consequences of their actions.
9. Open Your Home and Your Fridge
Teens, yours and their friends will always need a place to hang out. Whether it’s just messing about, watching pointless, mindless tv serials or working on a school project together. Opening your home to your teen and their friends, helps you not only know where they are, but actually allows you to get to know who they hang out with.
As difficult as it may be to withhold judgement, don’t pass comments, or share your views on their friends, unless asked specifically. Keep in touch with the parents whose children end up at your home, letting them know that their off-spring too are safe, will be reciprocated when the time comes.
Be prepared to have your fridge empty and raided constantly, be prepared to have shoes and coats strewn all over the place and furniture randomly rearranged, be prepared most of all, for noise, lots of it, laughter, fall-outs, break-ups, making up, best friend pacts. All that you too, enjoyed, when you were their age.
10. Trust Your Instincts
At the end of the day, remember, you are the parent and that sulking teen of yours is the child. Don’t forget that your position and your life experience does give you the upper hand. You do actually know what is best for them and what is not. Don’t let their whines and whimpers soften you. Parenting is a challenging and demanding job and it can make you frustrated. Put your foot down when you know they have crossed the limits. If something is not right, trust your judgement and your own instincts.There will be crazy days when your teen will make stupid decisions and you won't be able to do a thing. Click To Tweet
There will be crazy days when your teen will make stupid decisions and you won’t be able to do a thing. Their messy rooms and dirty wardrobes will drive you mad and you will end up cleaning after them. And one day, while you are doing the most mundane chores, your eyes will land upon a lovable baby melting into his mother’s arms. At that moment, you will feel wistful for the bond you used to have with your kid, while all you have now is a horrendous adolescent who mostly doesn’t want you around. But hey, that phase too, will pass, and they will return to you.
Keep calm, keep smiling and keep loving!