Teenage years or terrible twos?
If you are parents of teenagers, it may seem like deja-vu to you! Yes, there are lots of similarities between your child’s teen years and their terrible-two stages. Once more, they are facing an extension of their world, experiencing new and exciting but challenging things, pushing new boundaries and pulling away a little further from the parents.
However, for parents, as well as their teenage kids this stage is a bit more challenging. The most problematic issues is that at this stage they are “old enough” to do things that can make a serious and lasting impact on their future lives, career, eduction, and even to the extent of having life threatening consequences.
This makes the teenage years one of the most important and sensitive stages of your child’s life and a delicate balancing act for you as a parent. The good news is that your child has not turned into a strange being. They are only going through a difficult stage of their lives which requires from you, an adjustment of your role as a parent.
One of the most important tools to manage this extremely important task is to build a healthy parent-child relationship with your teenager, and the sooner you start the better. While they are communicating with you, your teenage kids may not be telling you a lot of important things about themselves. So it is important to establish the right channels of communication based on this healthy relationship.
Although your teenager seems to want to spend a lot of time with their friends and less time with you, it is extremely important that you do things together, things that you both enjoy and find fun. This time should be really spent on being together and enjoying fun activities whether it is sports, crafts, traveling, watching movies, or cooking, and not used for other hidden purposes such as giving them advice, or finding things about their lives.
Many teenagers skip family meals by eating out of the family routines. Having meals together as a family, even if there is just you and your teenager, is a good place to have general conversations about everything, share opinions, and talk casually. Preparing the meal together and cleaning up afterwards is a bonus opportunity. It is a good idea to leave the phones away from the dinner table!
If you want to know something about your teenager’s life you need to start to listen well, and listen a lot. Sometimes they say things just in an offhand comment about another issue or person. Also teens are more likely to tell you things if they don’t feel pressured, if they know that you are not going to judge them, and specially that you wont use it agains them. It is also important for them to know that you are genuinely interested to know about their lives and are not prying, in the same way the you would want to know about the lives of your siblings and other loved ones.
When I was raising my teenagers, I often found myself having the tendency to offer solution to problems, or unknowingly downplay their emotional problems or disappointments. When my daughter was having friendship or relationship problems, instead of letting her know that I felt the sadness or disappointment that she was feeling, I caught myself giving her advice on how to to find alternatives. She finally told me that what she was seeking was not my advice but my understanding or acknowledgement her emotions and my sympathy. By offering solutions instead of listening, feeling and validating her emotions, I was undermining those emotions.
Sometimes as parents we want to be our children’s best friends. While it is great if you can be friends with your teenagers, you are still the parent and as such are responsible for their guidance and protection, and set rules that are conducive to the fulfillment of those responsibilities. Teenagers may have some trouble with authority and following rules, but are more likely to understand and follow them if we take the time and patience to explain the reason behind those rules and how they can impact their safety, success or wellbeing.
Teenagers are very much about fairness too. They want to be treated fairly, so it is important to live by your words and walk the talk. If you make a new rule for the family, be sure to follow it yourself. If no phones are allowed at the dinner table, be the first to leave your phone in a different room at dinner time.
Surveys have shown that one of the highest priorities of teenagers, despite what you may think, is to please their parents. They want their parents to be pleased with them and proud of them, so go ahead and give them the praise and approval that they deserve every single time that you catch them worthy of praise.
Teenagers are no longer little children and want to find their place in life. Having responsibilities, even if it means having been trusted with small tasks will help with their process of growth and development. When parents give their teenagers responsibilities accompanied with trust, they give them the right motivation and tools for the development of self confidence and self respect.
Good parenting is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world for which none of us earned a degree! Asking for help from professionals who are specialized in working with kids or teenagers can be very helpful. A kids' Life Coach can be an invaluable resource for managing these eventful teenage years and help the family to go through them smoothly and successfully.