Many parents think that staying home with their babies and then going back to work when their kids are all in school is the way you're supposed to handle parenting in those early years. However, research conducted by Stanford University on the impact of a Norwegian government subsidy for stay-at-home parents found that there were significant benefits to families when parents stay at home with teens during those formative pre-teen and teen years.
In 2011, Norwegian parents were given monetary incentives to stay home with their children under the age of 3. However, many of these families also had older children, so Eric Bettinger set out to discover if there was a significant difference in those children who were older but had parents stay home. He found that by the time those children reached 10th grade, their academic success was higher. Bettinger says that "For years, we have known that parental presence is extraordinarily important in the very early childhood years. What we’re finding is that parents continue to be important much further along in a child’s life than we had previously thought.”
Teenagers egos are huge. They are in the developmental stage that psychologists call the ego-elusive stage. This means that they feel everything revolves around them- they believe that everyone is watching them (hence teenagers always being loud with exaggerated movements) and they believe that nothing bad will happen to them (hence why they are usually the ones doing dangerous or unsafe things). In addition, their hormones are fluctuating and their view of reality is not the same as ours. Adolescence is a huge time of change, and although children are more self-sufficient at this age they still need quite a bit of guidance and direction.
Now that social media is more prevalent, it is becoming harder and harder to connect with our children. We often are relinquished into watching body language and deciphering their coded language of teenage angst to figure out what might be going on behind closed doors. Staying at home with teens can provide the following benefits for adolescents:
- You can see their faces- The days where your kids come running into your arms because someone hurt them or because something is wrong are quickly fleeting. Soon they won't want to talk to you about what's going on in their lives. If a parent is home, they will be able to see their kids when they get home from school and assess their mood. They won't be getting home at 6pm, racing to make dinner, and barely see their kids' faces between their phones and their homework. Reading your child's body language will soon be the only way you will get a glimpse into their feelings.
- You can show them that you are there for them- When they are sick or when they actually, finally do want to talk you want to be there. You want them to feel like mom (or dad) is never too busy for them, and that you can stop in your tracks if something is going on with them. You want to continue providing your family with the flexibility of being able to bring someone to the doctors or the dentist without trying to figure out which parent is going to have to take off work.
- You can make them feel supported- Whether it's after-school activities or just issues with boyfriends/girlfriends or friends, you want your children to know that you are there. You want to be at their games, meets, or recitals. You want to be there when they walk in the door with full on tears because some guy was a jerk. As long as you're there for them, they might be willing to open up more to you.
But working parents shouldn't fret. A study done by Melissa Milkie and reported in The Journal of Marriage and Family found that quality beats quantity. The Washington Post reports that "the study found positive associations for teens who spent an average of six hours a week engaged in family time with their parents. 'So these are not huge amounts of time,' Milkie said." In addition, it also found that the distress of a mother can have a negative effect on a child's outcome, so if being a working parent allows you to be a better parent, then that will benefit your children more.
As the parent of a teenager, the best thing you can do is be there. Having knowledge of their developmental stages and the physical changes that puberty brings, you can be there to acknowledge these changes and help them as they navigate some of the most confusing years of their lives. Quality of time is key because your child might not be willing to talk to you outright when you ask, "How was your day?". Whether you are staying at home or working, you need to be able to read their body language when they walk in the door to give you a better understanding of what is really going on inside their heads.
Like this? You might also like, Why I'll Still be a SAHM When My Kids are in School.