Do you ever turn to look at your 14-year-old daughter or son and ask yourself, “where did my sweet, little child go?”Does it sometimes feel like this person beside you is, if not a stranger, then something of a mystery? Does it seem as though they’ve gone through myriad changes almost overnight when you weren’t looking?If you’re nodding your head and thinking, “oh, yes indeed,” trust us – you’re not alone!Most parents feel, at least from time to time, as if their child has been abruptly replaced by a sullen and glowering individual who is mostly monosyllabic and even sarcastic occasionally. But not to worry – your offspring is still in there, just temporarily captured by the exterior known as a teenager! As the old saying goes, “this, too, shall pass.”How do you minimize the tough stuff and cope with all the craziness of the teen years? How do you raise a healthy, happy and well-adjusted individual who has a good head on their shoulders, is optimistic about their future and the world at large, and is loving and kind toward you and the rest of the family?It can be done!In this article, we offer you some tips for handling what can be an explosive phase in human growth and development.Whether you’re already in the midst of these choppy and unpredictable waters, or you’re setting sail soon because your child turns 13 next month, these ideas will help you manage the teen years successfully.
1- Stay Calm When Others Lose Their Heads
No matter how volatile and emotional your teen may act sometimes, it’s important that you remain level-headed and calm, at least as much as possible. Getting into a screaming match is never productive, right? That’s particularly true when you’re dealing with a teen.They’ve got hormones pumping wildly through their veins that are at least partially responsible for unpredictable behaviour. As an adult, it’s key that you stay calm, no matter how often – or how loudly – they push your buttons.
2- Remember To Model The Behaviour You Hope To See
As we’ve said in several articles before, children learn by watching how their parents act, far more than by listening to what they say.Pay attention to your own behaviour and reflect on how you handle situations. Do you become irritated with your own mother when she gives advice or asks for help? Does your impatience seep through into your tone of voice? Has your teen been present when you’ve been curt with a sales clerk for taking too long to ring up a purchase?Make a promise to yourself to curtail responses like those, so that your teen sees you behaving the way you want them to behave.
3- Initiate Dialogue When They Seem To Retreat
Sometimes teenagers can’t find the words to express all the things that trouble and worry them.Rather than letting them close their bedroom door and constantly scan their social media accounts, be proactive. Ask them if they want to talk, and don’t simply say “okay” if they resist at first.Be persistent. Be loving. Reassure them that you are there to listen and help, not judge, and even if they don’t want to open up at that moment, they will know you are there for them whenever they need you.Your constant emotional presence is a safe harbour for your teen, so frequently let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. Even better – get them out of the house and do something they enjoy, like taking a hike or going to a movie.Sometimes just spending time with your teen is enough to bring them out of a “blue mood” and give them a fresh perspective on whatever is bothering them.
4- Keep An Eye On Their Online Life
Don’t invade their privacy, but be vigilant about keeping an eye on their social media accounts. If your teen has withdrawn because they are being bullied online, you need to know and deal with that.Having a family computer, rather than a laptop for each individual in the home, helps control what they see on screen. That is particularly helpful in the early teen years when you’re teaching them about online risks and the responsibilities that go with having access to the Internet.
5- Eat Together As Often As Possible
Studies show that families who eat together three to five times a week are more tightly bonded than others who grab a bite and plunk down on the sofa in front of the television.Sitting together at the dinner table allows everyone to relate what is happening in their lives, whether at school, with friends, events, or other activities. It doesn’t have to be the setting for deep, long discussions. But bringing the family together over a home-cooked meal and sharing laughter and stories brightens everyone’s mood. And it presents parents with the opportunity to check how their teenager seems and allows them to keep current with you, too.
6- Set Firm Boundaries
Believe it or not, when your teen expresses outrage at the midnight curfew you’ve set, unconsciously, they are relieved and happy. That’s because curfews and all the other boundaries parents establish, demonstrate love and concern for a teen’s well-being and safety. They may protest, they may argue that their friends aren’t as tightly controlled by their parents, but on a level they may not be aware of, they appreciate your concern and are happy you love them enough to monitor their comings and goings.
7- Make Consequences Clear & Enforce Them!
Just about every teenager, no matter how well behaved, once in a while breaks a rule or pushes the limits, usually right after mom or dad has made it clear that certain infractions won’t be tolerated.If, for example, you tell your teen that they will lose their phone privileges for a month if they break curfew, and two days later they come home an hour late without a valid excuse, don’t hesitate to enforce that punishment. And no matter how they plead, stick to your guns!If your teen senses they can pressure you into changing your mind, they will do everything in their power to make that happen. It’s important that the consequence fits the “crime,” so to speak, but once you’ve decided what that consequence is, don’t change it just because your teen is upset with you.
8- Parent Them, Don’t Try To Just Be Their Friend
One of the unfortunate trends of the 21st century is parents who think being a best friend to their teen is a smart approach to parenting. It isn’t, as study after study has demonstrated. Children of all ages need their parents to be mature adults who teach, guide and love them unconditionally. Friends fulfill a different role, and it is not a parent’s job to be buddies with their teen.Part of being an effective parent is being an authority figure who makes tough choices as the children grow and teaches morals, ethics, and other good behaviours that are crucial for becoming a productive and happy adult.Teens and parents do not have equal roles in the power dynamic of the family. Therefore it’s important that parents establish, right from the beginning, that their rules and principles govern the household. Not in a harsh way, of course; in a loving, supportive and positive way. There will be plenty of time for teens to chart their own course when they are grown and moving forward in their independent lives.
Teenagers can be challenging for even the most patient parent. And in some cases, it seems as if a child goes from being a loving, sweet little “daddy’s girl” to being a feisty, impatient young woman in the span of just a few months. Boy or girl, everything about them may change, from the way they dress and cut their hair (or don’t cut it!) to the friends they choose to spend time with. But don’t panic! Young people are supposed to push boundaries, question authority, muse out loud what they want their lives to turn out like, and demand answers to all of life’s big questions. One day they may say they want to be a doctor, and the next, decide that becoming a painter is their true calling. Their moods, desires and decisions often change at the speed of light.As their parent, you must provide stability to counter all those wildly different impulses. Behave in ways that tell them how loved they are, but don’t forget to say it, too. They are finding their way, taking their first tentative steps into independent adulthood. But they need to know you’re still there for them no matter what, that as their parent, you will never leave them no matter what happens. With that firm footing, they can begin to step confidently into the unknown!
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