PARENTALK: Parenting Teenagers
Rebellious, angry, difficult are some terms that people commonly use to refer to teenagers. While the stage is difficult, people often fail to understand that it is tougher for the children. It may seem emotionally devastating that the child is not a kid anymore and you will have to up your parenting game to tackle the new challenges. However, the child is going through phenomenal changes as well. It is difficult for them to comprehend whether they are old enough to do their chores or too small to decide for themselves. Add bodily changes, infatuations, and other teenage issues to the equation and that explains why the teenage years are so difficult for you to parent your child who was an angel before the big 13 hit.
This article will help you to deal with your feelings regarding your rapidly growing child, the phone calls under the blanket, changed interests, shady friends, and 8765478 other issues. It will also offer tips to parent your teen effectively without helicoptering around.
Stay calm: Just like all stages of parenthood, staying calm and understanding the world from your child’s point of view will help you sail through the teenage years, too. While there are big emotions to deal with, along with the fear of letting your baby out into the mean world, it’d help to sit down with your teenager to come up with a solution together. Remember, they may act all grown up and refuse to accept, but they still need you and your guidance. However, that doesn’t mean that you hound them with your presence wherever they go.
The need for positive parenting doesn’t fade but increases: There is a popular perception that being kind and calm in the early years is enough and teenage is the time to be strict. Supporters of authoritative parenting have been advocating in favor of invading the personal space of children, tightening the noose on them, and imposing stricter rules to control them and prevent them from falling into the wrong company and dangerous situations. However, these are the parental behaviors that cause friction, push children away from them, instigate them to push boundaries, and affect their mental health negatively. It is important to be a positive and conscious parent even when your child steps into teenage years.
Tips to raise responsible teenagers who confide in you: While it may seem impossible, you can raise a responsible and considerate teenager who will confide in you.
Here is how you can ensure that you let your child grow uninhibited and still keep them safe:
- Recognize the reason behind their behavior: Your teenager is not plotting to trouble you. There is a barrage of emotions behind their behavior. This includes body changes, confusion, increased resistance from parents, infatuations, lack of understanding from adults, etc. Remember, how you treat them will define their behavior. Research has proven that poor parent-teen relationships lead to teenage risk behavior such as drugs and alcohol, violent activities, and early sexual experimentation. They are also more susceptible to sexual abuse and grooming. Teenagers who have a cordial relationship with their parents perform better at school and are happier.
- Follow your parental instincts but don’t clip their wings: Insecurities and relationship doubts loom over young minds in their teen years. They expect their parents to understand them, be accepting of their decisions, and love them, irrespective of their flaws. This is also the time when they look up to friendships. It is natural for them to expect their parents to be like their friends and give them the independence they crave for. If parents offer to be friends and listen to their children without judgment, children will open up more. You’d still want to maintain a boundary so you can guide them like a parent and thus balance is the key here. Be friendly and accepting, still insist on basic rules and boundaries.
- Remember that being friends with them will not hurt their respect for you: All of us respect our friends and value them for all they do for us. Being friends with your teen will not affect the child’s respect for you. The respect and consideration they give you are directly proportional to the respect and consideration you give them. Modeling the right behavior is an indispensable requirement of the parenthood package. You need to do it even when you think your child is too old to imitate you.
- Be a friend, but do not compromise on the non-negotiables: It is not healthy to be a control freak or to let your ego govern your parenting relationship. However, permissive parenting is not what yields the desired results either. Howsoever friendly you are with your child, you will have to stand your ground sometimes and say no. Establish the non-negotiables in the house. These could be limits on the time they are online or parties without adults or anything else that you deem inappropriate. Teens are majorly driven by impulse and find it difficult to set limits. It is then that you have to step in gently and set those limits. Do not be rude or say a no right away, but be available to work out a solution together with your seemingly rebellious teenager.
- Make together time a routine: Your teenager now has a room to themselves and you are also neck-deep in work. If you are on a tight schedule, squeeze in a slot for together time. It could be a mealtime or the time before bedtime or any other time of the day. Make sure you use this time to communicate with the child and encourage them to talk without the fear of being lectured. Check on them every day and let them know that you have their back. You can also have a personal weekly ritual. It could be an evening of video games, an evening stroll, baking together, or just lounging together on the couch as you munch on some snacks.
- Acknowledge their need for more freedom: Your child isn’t that 4-year-old anymore who’d hold your finger to walk to the supermarket and sleep on your shoulder on the way back. Acknowledge the fact that your child is growing and needs more freedom. This doesn’t mean you close your eyes and let them out of your boundaries. Allow them outings, sleepovers, and the freedom to make their friends. However, you must also try to know their friends, ask where they are going, and let them know you are available to listen to their troubles and concerns.
- Look out for changes, and warning signs: Spend quality time with your child and keep observing if there are any major changes. Do they try to sneak out very often or are uncomfortable when you spot them using their phone? Maintain open communication about their friends, what they talk and other conversations at school or on the way back.
- Do not breach their trust: It isn’t a pleasant feeling to know that your parents were snooping through your messages while you were in the shower. Do not read personal diaries, messages, or emails without their consent. Create a safe space and encourage them to open up instead.
- Educate them about the dangers of drugs and teenage sex: These are the primary concerns that most parents have when their children step into their teenage. Talk to them, narrate stories, look up anecdotes and informational videos online and let them know about the dangers. Most groomers and drug peddlers lead children to hell by convincing them that their parents won’t be open to explicit information. When you establish channels of communication and let them know that these topics are not taboo, they will open up to you.
- Encourage them to talk to you about their time online: The web can be a scary place and you must keep an eye on your child’s online activity. While it is easier to keep the computer in a common space, you cannot monitor what they do on iPad or other mobile devices. Tell them what can go wrong online and how innocent teens have fallen prey to it in the past. Discourage stranger interactions and encourage them to talk about their time online.
- Be mindful of your reactions: Imagine your 13-year-old telling you about couples in school and how they sneak out for ice cream. What would you do? Lecture them about teen relationships and how it is not a good thing to bunk school? Do you think that after this lecture they’d open up to you about their crushes and infatuations? Sounds relatable? Most of our parents did this only to make us wary of opening up to them later. It is important to listen and be as excited as they are. You can later give a word of caution about aspects you are worried about.
- Help them set goals and work towards them: Apart from being conscious about their image, teenagers are also dreamers. They wish to make it big in the world and these wishes may or may not be centered around studies. Work with them to identify what they like, what they dream about, and come up with short-term and long-term goals. Keep satisfaction as the main idea behind achieving goals and not scores or impressing others. Support them to follow their passion even if they are offbeat.
- Trust them: It is one thing to say you trust them and another to actually trust them. Trust your upbringing. Know that if you have been an approachable parent, your teen will stay connected to you. They will come and share with you if you offer them a safe space and know that you will trust them.
Your child is ready to spread their wings into the world but they will do it in their time. Do not force them to be independent when they are not ready. Be available emotionally and do not withdraw your love if they do not seem to be adhering to your expectations. Rebellious teenagers, angry teenagers, difficult children are all labels. Stay clear of judgment and labeling and help your child grow into an independent adult.
Remember, it is tough but patience will make it possible.
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.