The small playground was bursting to the seams with children. Little children were sitting in the sand pit with their tiny baskets to play to their heart’s fill with sand, very comfortable with the mess and the dirt. Their mothers hung around keeping a watchful eye on them while chatting with other mothers. Some of the mothers were perched on the park benches and carrying on long, agitated conversations on their mobiles. The roads were populated with young kids on tricycles and bicycles, mothers or fathers in tow. And then there were the older kids. Some of them playing in the larger play area sports like basketball or football while some others formed groups and played on the roads. A regular scene in a regular neighbourhood.
In contrast to the gurgling younger kids, the teens are more guarded, their laughter stifled, their words hushed. They are at an age where they want to be seen as cool, as fitting in and as desirable. Some of them mouth words in faux accents that seemed positively juvenile but to them hep. Teenage is that time in life when you feel more sensible than an adult but are still a child within just getting the taste of freedom. It is also an age when the adults need to loosen their grip and try to be more friendly and understanding. But it is also the time when discipline is required. Deadlines to come back home and a general vigilance about the activities your teen indulges in. A classic dilemma on how to strike the balance.
It is an accepted fact that our children are way smarter than we were at their age. They have more access to data, are more aware, are pros at gadgets and have internet at their disposal to refute your every fact. The other side is that these may end up exposing them to issues and information that are much ahead of their ages. After all they are still children whose bodies are transforming into those of adults. This age of 13-18 is very tricky. It is a time when most parents are taken aback by the mood swings and open disagreements of their till now agreeable kids. It is a struggle for parents to stay involved yet hands off, to give them enough freedom to thrive, experiment and mature and yet pull in the reins when they sense danger.
This is the time when peers assume paramount importance. Teens start feeling pressured to conform by their peers. I have seen many teens transform from being down-to-earth, mature individuals to brash and awry teenagers. Some of them find it fashionable to cuss even in front of adults. There are yet others who get addicted to watching objectionable content on their mobiles because it is cool. Yet others get caught into the spiral of picking up habits like smoking, drinking, abusing substances and becoming physically intimate with very little understanding of protection or safe sexual behaviour. You find them shifting focus from studying and having fun to completely losing their way. The sad part is that some of them will never realize how precious this wasted time is till it is too late.
The challenge for parents like us is that we are busier, less around to monitor our children’s activities and sometimes do not know how to cope with an irreverent generation. It was easier for our parents to show us the cane or to cut down any dissent just by raising their voices. We would disagree but give in never having the courage to talk back or rebel openly. Besides we never really had access to gadgets and internet. But today’s teens are not so easy to handle. They have a mind of their own. They will fight you tooth and nail, challenge your authority and will not hesitate to defy the boundaries you set.
Some approaches that I feel may work: It helps to always keep the channels of communication open with your children. To let them know that they have your trust but as parents you have the right to set boundaries and discipline them. It is also important that they be provided adequate guidance and a willing ear to help them through their own confusing phase. It is important to be kind and empathetic and clued in to what your teen is up to. Keep a close watch on how much time they spend online, doing what and who they are interacting with. It is also important to know who their friends are and what do they do when you are not at home. It may feel like you are monitoring too much but it is better to be safe than sorry.
I have seen some teens go completely off track and that made me more conscious of how I am parenting my own children. One realization is that, teenagers need a lot of time from their parents. Let’s be around in the evenings for them to have a parent to share their angst and joys with. Be also careful of who they interact with, of what age and what is their influence on your child. If you spot a rotten apple, it’s best to try to nip that association early on in the friendship.
Let us facilitate an enjoyable teenage for our children. Let them not grow up before they need to. After all this is really the best time of their lives.
Do share your views on how to parent teens?