The key to raising great teenagers
Every stage of parenting is difficult, that we can all agree on. From sleepless nights in the newborn stage, to tantrums and testing in the toddler years, and guiding our schoolers manage their learning curve, parenting has always been difficult. They say it gets better over the years but most parents are not ready for the eventual disconnect when their children reach teen years.
Here are several key parenting advice from various experts on how to connect and engage with our teens, especially when they clam up and choose friends over their parents.
Let them know they have a safe space to get mad
Ever heard of teen angst? As parents it would be easier to meet that anger with, well, anger. But in the teen years it would be the best time to gather extra patience with all your children’s issues, so they know they have someone they can open up to.
“Let them know that it’s always okay for them to be mad at me. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been far from perfect, but the good news is that with kids, we do get points for trying, especially if we confront and repair our mistakes,” writes positive parenting advocate Janet Lansbury.
Acknowledge their feelings
As parents, we feel that our purpose is to resolve any problem in the household. While this is good, at some point we should not provide answers or rush our children to immediately find solutions to their woes. We first should acknowledge how they feel without offering any advice.
“The way most of us diminish feelings is far more subtle and loving. We don’t ever want to see our kids hurt or upset, so we try to calm them down by reassuring them, “It’s okay”, “You’re fine”, “It’s just a…” But these responses also invalidate, because when children are upset they don’t feel fine, and our words can’t change that. Our “comforting” responses are confusing, diminishing, teach children not to trust their feelings and maybe even to fear them,” adds Janet Lansbury.
Help make informed decisions
Parenting teens means you have to be a guide, not a boss. Your teens can make informed decisions with your help.
Montessori advocate Simone Davies writes: “With a teenager, it looks more like, “You want to go to that concert and it’s my job to keep you safe. How can we find a way that you can go to the concert and I know that we’ve done as much as we can to keep you safe?” The agreement we came up with was that they’d eat pizza at our place before the concert (so I knew who they were going with), I’d cycle with them and sit somewhere surreptitiously to see they got in ok, I warned them about the risks inside the venue with alcohol, drugs etc, and I’d pick them up at the end of the concert (I wasn’t the only parent there and they got to go to the concert).
Learn to be in charge, not in control
Consider parenting as being a captain of the ship, says author and family therapist Susan Stiffelman. This means stirring the ship to a preferred direction, but expecting there may be storms and weather disturbances that are beyond our control.
“When you’re the captain of the ship, and your children are stressed, or distressed, or want something, or are unhappy, it’s okay with you. You can live through that. You don’t need them to like you, or to be cheery and smiling all the time. You, in fact, recognize that for a child to grow up to become a resilient adult, they actually have to live through, discover that they can live through disappointment and upset,” says Stiffelman in a podcast.
Watch out for their mental health
According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in older adolescents (15-19 years) and there’s no single reason behind it. But risk factors include “harmful use of alcohol, abuse in childhood, stigma against help-seeking, barriers to accessing care and access to means of suicide.”
“Digital media, like any other media, can play a significant role in either enhancing or weakening suicide prevention efforts,” WHO adds.
Watch what they consume on social media but do not be a helicopter parent. Find out about their friends, invite them over for pizza or treat the bunch for a nice meal.
Watch out for risk taking behaviors, like sexual risk-taking, heavy episodic drinking, use of tobacco and cannabis, perpetration of violence, and interpersonal violence.
Raising Teens Today notes that we can, “little by little, year by year, loosen our grip, give them more freedom and test them with more responsibility.”
“They either handle it well or they don't. They either prove to us that they're trustworthy or not. Then, it's our job to adjust that freedom accordingly.”
Finding new ways to fill up their love tank
Maybe there will be less physical contact - no more cuddles in the morning, less kisses before going to school. But you can find other ways to fill up their love tank - remembering their favorite band, surprise concert tickets for them and their friends, preparing their favorite meal, or engaging them with household responsibilities that seem fun for them like grocery shopping.
Model money management
If you want your teens to be more responsible in handling money, you show it to them how it’s done. Mirror money skills like setting savings goals, putting aside money for emergencies, prioritizing the things you need to buy over “wants”, working hard to save for something, and organizing your earnings.
Some parents encourage their children to save money by matching up their savings. Help teens maximize their baon, and encourage savings by helping them set up their own bank account. Some schools also have cooperatives that encourage students to save up.