You thought the worst thing about raising children was the nighttime wake-ups? Think again! Parenting teens in the new millennium can be challenging, as it will often call for nurturing differently from how you were parented and rethinking how to care for them. – Brenda Dawkins, Parenting Coach at the Ministry of Education, Cayman Islands
The teen years can be mystifying for parents; your once always-smiling, rule-abiding child has been replaced with a moody and defiant teenager who you struggle to recognise and, at times, understand. Whether they admit it or not, this is the time in your child’s development when they are most in need of your guidance and support. As your teen embarks on their quest to discover who they are and where they ‘fit in’, it’s important that they are being guided to becoming the best version of themselves that they can be. Their desire for independence and a heightened curiosity means teens are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, but through positive parenting techniques you can help your teen navigate the difficulties of adolescence and assist in your child’s development into an independent, responsible and well-rounded young adult.
“They don’t even talk to anyone at home! How will I achieve this? I have tried everything possible.”
Your teen likely can’t wait to be an adult. With adulthood comes owning their own car, moving out and finally achieving the independence they’re already so desperate for. The problem is, at this age, your teen isn’t great at communicating their wants or needs. Their desire for independence is communicated through slammed doors and prickly conversation (if you’re lucky!). At this point, you have to meet them half-way. While it might be difficult, don’t be afraid to physically let go (incrementally) and begin giving teens more responsibility.
Giving choices and allowing children to be responsible should have started from the formative years, but no worries if you were not able to; it’s never too late to begin equipping your teen to deal with the realities of adulthood. Allowing teens to take on responsibility doesn’t mean you are losing control; you are building character and values.
Encourage your teen to help out – whether through chores or community work. Let them be in control of smaller, every-day things, including getting themselves up in time in the morning and managing their pocket money. This is a great way to introduce responsibility, as well as the sense of pride gained from a job or task well done. During the summer months, teens should be supported in seeking out employment. Summer internships are a fantastic opportunity for your children to become acquainted with the workforce and better understand what is expected of them in the ‘real world’. If your teen makes a mistake (or intentionally breaks the rules), enforce fair consequences which will serve as a reminder of what happens when you fail to act responsibly. As your teen matures, they will complete tasks because they understand it is their obligation to do so, not because mum and dad told them to!
Natural curiosity and a penchant for pushing the limits means a teen left to his or her own devices is more likely to get into trouble. Adolescents lack the gift of foresight and often act impulsively or in a reactive way and teenagers with more time on their hands are much more likely to take careless risks and make bad lifestyle choices.
By keeping teens occupied they are less likely to engage in risky behaviour due to boredom or peer-pressure. Rather than granting your teen free rein of the house after school, encourage their involvement in extracurricular activities. Children with healthy hobbies can have increased leadership skills, better time-management and stronger interpersonal skills. Read our list of activities for adolescents here.
When your child was young, your role was to nurture and guide him. Now you might be finding that your relationship with your child is becoming more equal. How do you stay connected despite this?
Communication is key – maintain an open and trusting relationship with your adolescent by keeping all subjects on the table. Make yourself available to talk to so your teen knows they can approach you about a problem if needs be.
As your teen is striving for independence, help foster this by giving them more responsibility around the home and encouraging them to get a job or volunteer within the community.
Know who your child’s friends are. Facilitate ways to get to know your child’s friends and their families to ensure they’re maintaining healthy relationships.
Ensure you are a good role model! Teens gain a sense of the kind of adult they want to become from the adults they are surrounded by.
During the early years of your teen’s life, part of your job as a parent was to give guidance and instill values. Now, as the parent of a teen, part of your job is to coach them through the various phases.
Being in tune with your teen is so very important in order to play the role of the coach well, now is the time to stand on the side line and watch the ‘player’ put the game plan into action and restrain yourself from running on to the field and taking over. By doing this, your teen will feel empowered and confident and trust you more as you continue to give choices. Be supportive and model the behaviours that will help your teen become a happy, independent adult.
Teenagers need love and support from parents at a time when lots of other things in their lives are changing. Family support is a great stress buffer against the impact of peaking social stress from sources like social media and peer pressure. At about this time, teens’ response to stress can go haywire, sparking door-slamming, stomping, shouting and tears. Researches state that of adults with mental disorders triggered by stress, 50% received a diagnosis before the age of 15. Other research shows teens from ages 11 to 15 become sad and anxious when subjected to social stresses such as exclusion from social groups and adults who do not show support or empathy with their problems.
Teens whose families provide companionship, problem-solving and emotional support are less likely to become depressed after exposure to severe stress (2016 study of 362 Israeli adolescents, Journal of Family Psychology). The study further states that it is when they reach out for their parent, and the parent is not there, that they make most reckless decisions. For teenagers, parents and families are a source of care and emotional support and most teenagers still want to spend time with their families, sharing ideas and having fun.
Continued in Part II
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