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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

Tips for raising a teenager l raising a teenager son l raising a teenager daughter 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

Tips for raising a teenager l raising a teenager son l raising a teenager daughter 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. 

Final Thoughts!

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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