The day your kids become teens can feel a little scary. The little kiddo that used to need you to hold their hand while crossing the street is now nearly if not taller than you and on their way to driving a car. While teenagers seem like they can be a lot to handle sometimes, they really are not any more to handle than the baby who used to keep you up at night or the toddler you were constantly chasing after. Still worried? Keep these 6 things in mind to help make parenting teens a little easier.
1. Let them learn from their mistakes
Let them make mistakes. Then let them learn from those mistakes. It can be hard when parenting teens to stand back and watch them struggle. No parent wants their kids to experience hurt or trouble. But you have to let your teens figure things out for themselves sometimes. The best way to learn how to solve problems and handle challenges is by doing it. If you are always swooping in and cleaning things up and solving the problems yourself, they will never learn how to do it for themselves.
Let them know you are there to listen if they want to talk or if they need help. Offer advice if they ask. Remember, you raised them to be the amazing, responsible teen they are, so trust them to figure things out.
2. Treat them with respect
It can be difficult to look at your teen and see them as the grown-up person they are becoming. No matter how old they are or how tall they get, as their parent, you always see them as that little boy or girl grinning up at you and saying, “I love you, mommy.” With all that being said, it is important to remember when parenting teens that they are not little kids anymore. Avoid talking down to them or being condescending. Instead, talk to your teenager with the respect that you want them to give back to you.
Teach them that it is okay to have a conversation when they disagree about a rule, for instance. You may not change your mind, but you can encourage them to ask why a certain rule is in place and use that as an opportunity to explain your reasoning. They are more likely to respect your rules when they understand that they are not arbitrary and you have made them for a reason.
The same idea goes for talking to them about things they like. You may hate their haircut or the music they like, but rather than putting it down, ask them why they like it. One of the awesome things about parenting teens is that you can have real conversations with them. They will likely enjoy explaining the things they like to you. Not only does it show that you are interested in their lives, but it also shows that you respect them.
Respect also extends to their privacy. While it is important to know what is going on in your teen’s life and to make sure they are being safe, it is essential to respect their privacy. Reading their diary is not the answer. Instead, the best way to keep up with what is going on in their lives is to be present and engaged with them. That way, when you see or hear something that is a red flag, you can talk about it. They are probably more likely to listen to you that way. No teen is going to respect what you have to say if they feel like you just violated their privacy.
3. Give them some freedom
There are plenty of rules that are necessary when parenting teens. Your teenager may have a curfew or not be allowed to go out on weeknights. They are probably required to let you know where they are going to be and who they are going to be with. However, when it comes to the things that are not a safety issue or that really are not a big deal to you, let your teenager make some choices. Let them choose the style of clothes they wear or the hairstyle they like. Let them listen to the kinds of music they like.
As much as you might want to control your teen’s life, avoid doing it. Teenagers are discovering who they are. Let them explore that in ways that show you respect them. So while you may not like their choice of clothing or hate the music they like, allow them to be who they are and save your energy when parenting teens for the things that really matter.
4. Eat dinner together
It is a simple thing but the more you sit down and eat dinner (or whatever meal works best) with your teen, the better. That is because a set family meal together gives your teen the chance to talk to you about things. To that end, 80% of teens say that family dinner is when they are most likely to talk to their parents. So when you are parenting teens use those mealtimes as a chance to ask your teen about their day, their friends, school, current events, and anything else that you think you or they might want to talk about.
There are other benefits to family dinners. Kids who grow up having family dinners tend to have better eating habits once they are on their own. They tend to eat more healthily and have lower rates of obesity. Eating regular family meals also tends to improve physical health and cardiovascular health.
On top of that, the mental health benefits of family meals are amazing. Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Plus, regular family dinners have also been shown to improve academic performance as well as self-esteem. One thing that is vitally important when parenting teens is giving them the confidence to be who they are, make good choices and feel good about themselves.
5. Spend time together
Besides family dinners, spend some one-on-one time with your teenager. Parenting teens can sometimes feel like you are dealing with someone who wants nothing to do with you. They may act too cool for school half the time, but they still want your time and attention. The teen years are awesome for spending time with your child. They are old enough to be interested in some of the same things you are interested in. You can have grown-up conversations with them. It is really cool to sit back and watch your child blossom into their own person.
You do not have to do anything complicated or overly planned. Grab a coffee or smoothie together. Have a movie night at home. Take a walk or go to an exercise class together. If you both have a hectic week, simply having them help you make dinner is a perfectly good way to spend a little quality one-on-one time together. Chit-chat while you are cooking and ask about their day or school. Again, they will appreciate the attention and your interest in what is going on with them.
6. No matter what they say, they do care
When you are parenting teens, you hear things like “whatever” and “I don’t care” fairly frequently. Teens can get an attitude better and faster than just about anyone in the world. But know that they really do care. They care that you want to spend time with them. They care that you worry about them and want the best for them. They might not always like your rules or the things that you say or do, but they do care. They want to be liked and accepted not only by their friends but by you too.
As hard as it may be sometimes not to get annoyed or angry when they roll their eyes and say “whatever” when you tell them that they have to get their homework done (or whatever it was that incited the eye roll), try not to jump all over them about it all the time. Sometimes a smile and an “I love you” does much more for diffusing the situation than a lecture.
Parenting teens can certainly be trying. They are (for better or worse) free thinkers who have their own opinions on things. At the same time, they are insecure and trying to find themselves. They roll their eyes a lot. They do not always listen. But they are also at a stage in their life where you share interests. They understand a lot about the world and are interested in current events. You can talk about sports or books together. It is a pretty unique time in their life. While it is not always easy, if you keep these things in mind, parenting teens through their evolving teenage years does not have to be painful.
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