Somewhere between the ages of 13-17, there will be a sudden shift in the relationship that you have with your child. The child that once wanted to be just like you and be around you every second of the day is now slowly but surely beginning to think that you’re from another planet.
Has this happened to you already? If so, welcome to the world of parenting teens. Your life will be forever changed from here on out.
While I’d like to say that I know exactly what is going on in their minds and why they’ve suddenly become so distant, defiant, and “brand new”, I haven’t really figured it all out. I mean sure, I remember being a teenager myself, but I’d like to think that I was a bit less difficult to raise than my own budding teen…(my mom might beg to differ). From the change in their sense of fashion, the friends the hang out with, and even their social interests, to the smart mouth, mood swings, and often reckless behavior, sometimes I wonder if my teen has lost their natural mind.
As their parents you want to give them the freedom to express themselves and navigate through life a bit more on their own, but sometimes you have to reel them in. A few ways of doing this are having a talks about key issues, setting guidelines, and keeping the lines of communication open.
Talking About Common Teen Issues
Now your teen probably thinks you don’t know the next thing about being a teenager yourself. However, it is still important to have a talk with them about various issues and circumstances that may arise in their life to keep them on the straight and narrow. Some topics you’ll want to discuss as your teen gets older and has more privileges are:
- The birds and the bees – Even if your teen has taken a health class, they’re going to need mom or dad to have a talk with them about sex. Many parents like to only discuss abstinence (which is the ultimate goal). However, since we know not all teens are going to obey our wishes, talking with them about being safe and the emotions that can derive from having intercourse is ideal so that they have a full picture.
- Fitting in – All teens want to do is fit in with their friends. We all remember wanting to be cool, but there are limits to this. Make sure you talk with your teen about loving who they are and not conforming to what everyone else is doing.
- Drugs and alcohol – This is a big one that some parents don’t address until after they realize their teen has a substance abuse issue. Preventative measures are always better than the wait and see option. Talk with your teen about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol, and how it can affect their lives forever. If you believe your teen is already using drugs or alcohol, approaching the issue is extremely important. Tucsontransitionalliving has a great piece on how to approach a teen you believe is lying about addiction.
Setting Ground Rules
Teenagers, though a bit older, still need guidance and structure from their parents. The next step to getting through the teen years is setting some ground rules. Having household rules in place ensures that the teen still listens to authority and does not get too out of control as they explore the world through their own eyes. When setting ground rules, while you don’t want to confine them like a prison warden, you also don’t want to be so lenient that they walk all over you. After setting your rules, be sure to have a talk with your teen to ensure they understand the rules and consequences that will follow if they break them. It will be equally as important for you as the adult to enforce these rules consistently so they don’t take you for a joke.
Keeping the Lines of Communication Open
Lastly, it is important to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. Chances are your teen won’t want to talk to you much, but if you’re too closed off or too strict they will turn to others. Unfortunately, they don’t usually turn to another adult, but a group of peers who may not give out the best advice. Therefore, try to cultivate a relationship with your teen that lets them know that they can come to you whenever they need to talk.
Fitting in, being moody, changing friends and even being isolated from the family is all typical teenage behavior. Be that as it may, as their parent, you must be there every step of the way providing guidance and a shoulder to cry on if necessary. While it may not seem like they’re interested in you as much, you will always have a significant impact on their lives and as such should do what you can to continue to help them flourish as teens until they reach adulthood. While this probably doesn’t solve all the issues of parenting teens, I’m hoping that I was able to give you some foundation on how to move forward in the years to come.