Being a parent is no easy task. The teen years can stress the parents’ relationship with children. Teenage years are about rebellion and challenging authority, learning who they are, and gaining independence. As kids try out different things, they learn to live in the world while deciding how the next phase of their life will look.
As a parent, you need to know how to navigate these changes. For example, when do you set a boundary, and when do you let the child take the lead? When do you add your child to your car insurance? When do you relax curfew?
Teenagers gain more freedom as they receive their driver’s license, get their first job, and come and go more on their terms. Parents may lose some ability to monitor their children and may not be aware of aspects of their lives.
Remember the Biology Behind the Teenage Years
Physically, teenagers are experiencing changes in their bodies. Hormones ramp up, and they become more emotional. Sleep habits can change, and peer pressure becomes more important.
Physical changes, growth spurts, and sleep changes can throw teen brains into high activity. This period typically begins around age 12 and lasts into their early 20s.
Teenagers can act impulsively, show poor judgment, seem more influenced by peers, and exhibit low empathy. These changes are due partly to biology.
Teenagers frequently show changes in sleep patterns, staying up later and wanting to sleep late in the morning. Help your teen establish a routine that works for them. Encourage them to set up a routine, but don’t do it for them. Fighting about bedtime is not a fight worth having.
Stay Open to Conversation With Your Teenager
It’s essential to keep the lines of communication open with your teenager. However, it’s just as important not to force communication. Instead, make an effort to understand when they are most receptive to talking with you.
Trying to sit down formally to talk may seem confrontational. Instead, ask your teenager to go for a walk, help you with some yard work, or help with cooking. This approach is more natural and relaxed and may lead to better communication.
Continue to include your teen in family activities, but allow them flexibility in participating in every family activity.
Don’t take it personally if your teenager has other plans or doesn’t want to participate.
Watch for Signs of Mental Health Problems
Try to remember your teenage years. Realize that your teenager is likely feeling stress from even more directions than you remember. Teenagers now are dealing with technology and social media that can exacerbate problems. Mental health problems often have onset during the teen years.
Get in touch with your teenage self and remember that your teenager is still your child, so nurture them. Be on the lookout for signs of depression, talk with your partner, and undermine each other. Teenagers need boundaries in the real world and the online world. So be aware of their social media activities.
Involve Your Child
Involve your teen in offline activities. Involving your child in other activities will help keep communication open and maintain a relationship based on commonalities. For example, you might try woodworking, gardening, hiking, and fishing.
Ask them to volunteer with you a few weekends somewhere you both feel supports important issues in your community. The activity is not as important as the time spent together is.
You might choose to let your teen take the lead on the technology in your home. Make it more of a partnership so your teen doesn’t view the relationship as adversarial. Talk about online activities. Enlist your teenager’s help in educating younger siblings, relatives, or friends about online safety.
Spending time together shows your teenager that you care and value time with them. Respect their feelings and opinions. If possible, have meals together as a family. Remember that love is not the same as approval. You can continue someone even when you disapprove of their choices.
It’s OK to criticize behavior without making it about the person.
Set Reasonable Rules, Expectations, and Consequences
People often live up or down to others’ expectations. Set expectations for behaviors, such as being honest, kind, generous, and considerate. Straight A’s are excellent and can be a goal, but don’t overemphasize such expectations. Integrity is formed over the long haul, and that is your goal.
People gain self-confidence by experiencing success. Let your child set their own goals, then encourage them to work to fulfill them. Offer support, praise, and comfort if they fall short.
Keep your rules short and avoid giving ultimatums. Your child is likely to go by the rules if they understand your reasons for making them.
Avoid making rules if you think your teenager may not be able to obey. Be flexible. Trust your child, but be ready to enforce more restrictions when they exercise poor judgment or get in over their head.
When enforcing rules, remember to criticize the behavior, not the child. Be respectful and loving. Don’t be disrespectful or sarcastic. Be truthful, nonjudgmental, and consistent.
Remember Your Goal Is Raising Well-Adjusted Adults
Set a positive example for your teenager and their friends. Make your home safe and welcoming for them. As a parent of teenagers, you are no longer the decision-maker. Instead, you are the coach, a mentor, and a sounding board.
Teenagers are idealistic and enthusiastic. The relationship is changing from parent/child to adult/adult. Be supportive. Your job during this time is to help your child prepare for life away from your home.
That preparation should include helping your child gain confidence, develop judgment and make good decisions. In addition, you want your child to be independent, responsible, kind, and generous.
While developing your child’s sense of self is essential, helping them picture their life in five or ten years to set a plan on achieving goals is also an important part of being a teenager. In addition, exploring career options, visiting schools, and attending community events to explore different career paths can be exciting.
It’s also important to teach your child practical things. There are some things we take for granted. These are learned skills. There are essential skills to teach your kids, including cooking and cleaning, laundry, and basic finance.
Teach your child to make a few basic meals, repair a seam or sew on a button. In addition, familiarize them with essential maintenance on the home and their vehicle.
While the teen years can be challenging for the whole family, they are also enriching. Try to let go of your preconceived notions about who your child might be as an adult and enjoy watching them discover themselves. Avoid fighting over issues that won’t matter in 10 or 20 years.
Teach your child to take responsibility for themselves and their actions by setting New Year’s resolutions based on their hopes and dreams. Encourage kindness and initiative. Urge them to do well but not to be too hard on themselves when they fall short.
By all means, be there for them. Ask them to come to you if they are confronted with something that troubles them. If you feel the need to constrain their behavior, be ready to explain your concerns and the reason for your action.
Enjoy this time with your child.
Teresa Johnson writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She has a degree in business and has worked with adolescents and children. She has three adult children.