By the time our children reach their teens they are in the important process of developing their own identity, apart from that of their parents. Needless to say, it’s an important and vulnerable time in their lives. For parents it can be filled with land mines. So it’s important for us to try to understand what’s influencing their behaviour and to keep the lines of communication open.
For our young people, it’s a time of exploration, making mistakes and learning from them. As parents, we need to understand that our role is to guide our offspring into adulthood. Depending on the young person’s abilities and the willingness of their parents to provide a flexible environment that promotes growth, they should come out of this process, well balanced independent adults who will contribute in a positive way to society. Here are my 5 tips for parenting a teen while protecting that teen spirit!
- Basic boundariesare an important aspect of a well-functioning family. As children grow into adolescence, it’s important that these boundaries are reviewed and agreed on from time to time in the interest of all the family. It’s important that young people are involved in discussing the value of these boundaries and to be asked to sign up to them. For most young people fairness is paramount and you can be sure that they won’t be hesitant in pointing out when they believe something is not fair!
- Choices and consequencesare important factors in encouraging good behaviour in young people. If a teen is given a consequence which has been agreed beforehand, when confronted with a choice to behave or not, the likelihood is that they will learn to choose responsibly. The important thing is to follow through with the consequence if they don’t. Consequences should be practical and not humiliating or degrading to the young person.
- Encouragementis one of the most important tools we have to guide young people. The most important form of encouragement we can give to our child is our time and attention. As adults, we like our work being recognised and it often motivates us to give that extra percent. Likewise, it’s the same for our teens.
- Timeto have fun together, individually with your teen and as a family is priceless. It is an important part of encouraging communication. In those in-between years, young people often feel isolated from their family, emotionally and physically. They often feel that they don’t fit in anymore. Most spend more time with their peers, on social media and mobile phones. It’s a normal transition process. However, they still need their parents or carers. Amidst the complex hormonal and mental turmoil, as they adjust to the changing and developing landscape of their bodies, teens can feel alien and different. They sometimes believe that everyone is against them. Their perspective is at times warped a little and sometimes dead on the ball!
- Listento your teen. That is, actively listen in a way that they know you are present to them. It’s important not to criticise their ideas and thoughts, which is not to say you must agree with them, but give them the respect that you would hope they would give to you. Sometimes, with our teen’s busy schedules and our own, it takes effort to recognise the opportunities to communicate with each other. As an adult, this is primarily our job. I know that for my teens, it used to be just before bed-time when they were relaxed and less ‘on guard’!
In the end of the day, we are caretakers of our children until they can fly the nest. We can love them to death, but we can’t think their thoughts or walk in their shoes. My belief, at this stage in my life, is that communication and unconditional love is the key to a lasting, long term relationship with your child no matter what stage in life they are at!