Parenting teens is a mammoth task. You cant classify them as kids nor can you tag them as adults. This is a tricky developmental stage and your sweet little child can turn into a nightmare – overnight! How do you control your emotions when they test you every single moment? Their grades are plummeting and their lifestyle changes are scary, you can’t reason with them because they won’t listen to you. This topic helps all parents understand the why behind their metamorphosis and the “how to become their friend when they only see you as their foe”.
Know when to step in – you have been a key person in all their decisions so far, the teen years is when you may need to take more of a step back. However, there are some areas where you must always be on top of what is happening. You absolutely need to know how they are performing at school. The best way to do this is to ask each day, perhaps over dinner. Easy questions like “How was your day? “, “What did you learn today? “, “What was your most/ least exciting part of the day? “ are the best way to begin. These will give you valuable insight about what your child is up to. Of course, you need to lead by example so each of these questions has to be followed by your answer too. Your teen will not only feel valued that his parent cares enough to ask each day, but also feel acknowledged that their parent is sharing and giving them insights into their daily life too. This is non-negotiable and no matter how busy both of you are, this must be done each day. The beauty of these questions is it tells you about your teen’s education, choice of friends (or lack off), activities each day. If you are aware on a daily basis, you can always pre-empt when something is about to go wrong and guide them before it happens.
Know when to step out – This is hard for many parents to do but it has to be done. Don’t try and be the cool parent butting into your child’s friend circle. They don’t need you “hanging” with them each time they come over. Don’t try and adopt slang or teen talk just to try and fit in with your teen’s friend circle. You are the parent so act like one. Be warm and welcoming and provide help or guidance if asked. No teen likes a parent who is constantly interfering when friends are over or are too nosy asking about all the friends and activities. You need to give your child space and trust they will come to you on all critical matters. Until then, be the caring, yet aloof parent and you will find your child and also his friend’s respect and will look up to you.
You are also crossing a line if you are invading their private space – going through their cell phone private messages or looking through their private diaries. Hacking into their social media account or snooping in on any conversation they are having. Yes, we live in dark times when there are enough predators posed as cool teens or friends waiting to harm your precious angel. But the best protection you can give your child is talking to them each day. You will know when they have been targeted by any wrong crowd or you will be able to predict if anyone is being nasty on social media or private chats. If you build their trust first, soon they will be talking to you without you asking, or worse, spying on them. To build trust first.
Know when to push back – This is a hard one and often parents are unable to keep their cool. Soon there are fights that deteriorate the trust you have built. No matter how much you try, there will come a time when your teen will lash out at you. This is not your fault, this is them trying to make sense of the world around them and the changes within. They are expected to act like an adult yet they are treated like children and prevented from making life-altering decisions. They are expected to do more chores and take on more responsibilities yet when they are faced with a stubborn refusal to get a tattoo, but that sports car or go away for the weekend with my gal pals. Understand that this time is more difficult for your child than for you and keep your cool. When they have broken any rule or are not agreeing to your decision, you need to calmly explain why this has to happen and rationalize with them. You may also need a bargaining tactic so the two of you can meet halfway. The worst thing you can do is give up or scream and shout at your child and make them feel inferior. During tough times and tough decisions, invite them to the table and together make the right choices.
Know when to push ahead – depression, drugs or other substance abuse, bullying, anorexia, bulimia. These are realities many teens face and you need to protect them from any of these situations. Don’t be blind to the fact that these may happen, you need to calm down and make them understand the dark truths. Push ahead when you see any signs of your child acting rebellious or drawing into a shell when they become picky eaters or stop eating or worse, decide to follow one diet or another. Ask them questions about their friends over a cup of coffee and cocoa. Discuss the challenges you faced and maybe quote instances when you lost a friend to alcoholism or someone was arrested for vandalism or stealing. Push ahead and make your child aware of what are the dangers and how they can protect themselves against these. The biggest support your child needs is you so let your teen know you will always be there to guide and support no matter what the situation.