As a mom of a teen and a tween on the threshold of teenage, I am very certain that this is one of the most challenging parenting phases for me as a parent. While I’ve been by and large a democratic parent, lending ear to my children’s concerns and even seeking out their views, it was easier to enforce discipline and to an extent my views when they were younger. Young kids idolize their parents. Thus, they question less and believe more. And then they become teens. Now everything we say is looked at from the prism of skepticism.
Here are some of my tips to raise a modern-day teen:
1. Late nights and early mornings become a part of their lives:
I can’t believe that my kids used to sleep in by 9.30 and wake up around 6.30 at one point in time. The tween would even get up by 7-7.30 on holidays. No Sir. Not anymore. Now they regularly sleep after 10.30 at night and on days when they don’t have school they can sleep till after 10, 10.30 in the mornings. I don’t know if teenagers are wired that way but as annoying as it may seem, I guess they are developing their own rhythm. I now treat that time as my me-time in the mornings and only start yelling once it’s past 10.30.
2. Be aware that their attention spans are dwindling even further
Kids, in general, are distracted. And teenagers I guess have too many things going on in their minds. With social media, we parents are terribly distracted as well. My elder son who was completely there in the moment is often switching off in conversations. And when I want the conversation to continue, I gently nudge his attention back to me. I guess having a policy of no mobiles when eating or chatting at the dining table for both the parties help. Also an occasional lecture to watch the screen time generally is effective for a few days. Get used to absent mindedness, in short.
3. They will have emotional spikes
Yes, hormones do wreak havoc on the minds and behaviours of teens. Outbursts may happen regularly even in teens who were otherwise pretty level headed. We need to be patient and compassionate as befuddling as this change maybe. These are phases that outgrow in some time. It helps to be sympathetic to any sudden yelling and crying episodes. It also helps to have a talk explaining how to cope with anger and frustration or simply vent in ways that will be healthier and will not affect the relationships of those close to them. Remember this phase will pass. Hopefully by 20 they will emerge as kind, compassionate and sensible adults.
4. Communication is paramount
Communication is very important, perhaps the most important part in a parent-child relationship. Always keep channels of communication open for both parties. Let the teen reach out when they need to speak no matter how contentious the topic. Let them have the freedom to turn to you for anything tricky, embarrassing or downright uncomfortable. Be the serious parent even though you may be tempted to laugh your guts off sometimes. I have seen that talking and listening to each other goes a long way in building trust and laying the foundation of a good relationship. Teens or adolescents are not yet adults but are terribly touchy. Talking with them even if it gets grunts in response helps.
5. Help them handle stress
Teenage is a time when the body and mind undergo a lot of growth. It is also the time when academically you are laying the foundation of a future career. In a nutshell, this is an extremely unsettling time for both the parents and the teens. While this is a time to focus on career ambitions and tackle the pressure that this bring on, it is also a time laden with fraught emotions and uncertainties. Teens do not like lectures. Though sometimes we all resort to them. But be around to listen to them even when they push you away. Show them you care. Guide them to the best of your ability. Don’t take their scowls to heart and sometimes their mean words too. It is a phase. And as parents we need to support our kids through it.
6. Don’t spy on them
Yes, I keep an eye on my kids to ensure that they do not go overboard with their screen time or pick up unseemly behaviours. But it is not okay to go behind their backs to spy on them. It is distasteful and may not serve any purpose as your teen will hide more. Instead, ask them upfront. I’ve seen that it works most of the times. And if they lie to get out of a tricky situation, talk to them about how that is wrong as well. It is critical that a parent and teen share a healthy bond of trust. Trust more, it improves confidence both ways.
7. Be open to swallow your ego
As parents, we studied a long time ago. No matter how good we were at academics or general knowledge, our teens know more and have more updated knowledge. Be willing to swallow your pride as they point out holes in your knowledge. With Google, it is even more difficult to show that you are always right! Teenage also calls a change in alignment of our perspectives. Our children are growing older heading towards adulthood. They don’t need constant handholding. They want our trust and confidence to make their mistakes. Be there for them. Also very important is to apologize if you have erred. It is always okay to apologize. You show them by example that it is okay to admit that you are wrong sometimes or that you make mistakes.
8. Be Human
No I am not promoting Salman Khan’s clothing line but simply stating an important fact. Beyond all morality, right and wrong, be human. Show your human side to your teen. Frankly, it is a relief to no longer be that parent who has to be at their best behaviour always. Your teen can understand that you can have issues and problems. It is okay to share more and establish a friendship with your teen.
Parenting a teen is a time fraught with fears and apprehensions on both sides. It can be enjoyable and it will vary from teen to teen and parent to parent, no two experiences being quite similar. There is no right way of doing it just the way that works for both of you.
I would love to hear what your thoughts are on parenting a teen.
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