Having children is one of the most beautiful and challenging events in life. When they are small, you must teach them and guide them in learning how to navigate themselves and the world around them. When they become teenagers, they still need your help but, they also want independence. This can create quite the challenge for parents who don’t always know what their child wants. Getting through this time can be difficult for parents and teenagers alike.
1) It’s all about communication.
When you are parenting a teenager, you need to provide the right balance of independence and discipline. The child who one day wants to cry on your shoulder may be annoyed the following day that you have asked them a simple question. However, if you can learn how to communicate well with your teen, you can learn to get through this time together.
Teenagers have many different things going on in their lives. First of all, their hormones are changing. As they go through puberty, their body begins to grow and develop in ways that are foreign to them. This can lead to a sense of frustration, especially when they are not developing at the same rate or in the same way as their peers. Some may experience the changes before or after their friends. It can be embarrassing and awkward for them to talk to you about these matters. Hopefully, you have kept an open dialogue with your children about sex and how their bodies will change.
When you talk to your kids about these issues, let them take the lead. Keep your sense of humor with you and try to really listen to what they say, without judgement or hysterics. After all, your children still need solid input that is based in facts. You do not want them to get their information about puberty and sexuality from their peers.
2) Set aside quality time.
Make special time for you and your child when you are parenting a teenager. Each week, set aside a few hours where you are not distracted by your cell phone or other issues. You can plan going out to eat together or going shopping. If there is a park in your neighborhood, you can have picnics in a relaxing environment. When you take the time to spend with your teen, it lets them know that they are still important to you.
When it comes to them spending time with their friends, do not be overly harsh or critical of their peers. This can create a distance between you and your child. Use encouraging words to talk about the people that are a good influence on your teen. For the people that you think may be a negative influence, trust that your teen will eventually see it for themselves. If you try to control who they hang out with, it will only lead to resentment and more poor choices.
3) Rules, guidelines and participation.
Curfews are one of the big issues that teens and parents often fight about. Sometimes kids will use the argument that others have later curfews than they do. Talk to them and explain the reasons for their curfew. Allow your teen to prove themselves responsible and remain flexible to altering their curfew as they grow older. If you know the parents of their friends, discuss curfews with them to find out when and why they have chosen the times for their children to be home.
Encourage your child to become involved in extra-curricular activities. If they want to participate in sports or music programs, allow them to and then go to the games and performances. Really pay attention to what is happening and talk to your child about it. Stay positive and ask questions so they know that you care about what is happening in their lives.
When your teen is old enough to drive, you need to discuss the rules and responsibilities with them. This can be one of the toughest challenges when parenting a teenager. You need to see that they are growing up and encourage them to be safe. If there is a driver’s education course at their school or in your town, have them take it. Go over the rules that you expect them to follow. Make certain that they understand the dangers of texting while driving. Many states now have laws that regulate how many passengers a teenager can have in the vehicle and how late they can drive without a parent or other responsible adult in the vehicle.
4) Remember when you were young.
Teenagers are going through many different changes and it can be easy as a parent to forget how challenging those times can really be. When you talk to your child, try to think back on what worked and didn’t work for you to hear as a teenager. Use that to build on a more positive relationship with your child. In just a few short years, your teen will be ready to go out on their own. These are the last years you have to make a permanent and lasting impression in their minds. Treat them as teens and not little children. Look at what issues you fight about and ask yourself which ones are really worth it. If they want to dye their hair blue, will it really make a difference ten years from now? Save the heavy discussions for the things that will, such as drinking or using drugs.
You have had years to love your child and teach them the basics about being a civilized human being. The last few years of childhood are the time you need to help them make a safe transition into adulthood. Help them learn how to be responsible with money and themselves. Encourage your teen to work. This will give them a sense of accomplishment and understanding of how important financial responsibility is.
Your teenager is one of the most special people in your life. Keep the lines of communication open and be honest with your child. In the long run, you will be closer than ever due to your efforts.
More resources about teen communication.
More resources about teens, parents and high school education.
5 Practical Ways to Increase Parent Involvement in High School
3 Easy Parent Teacher Conference Tips
5 Characteristics of Quality High School Education
The Student’s Guide to High School Curriculum
Finding the Missing Piece in Education