When my firstborn turned 13, I remember thinking to myself, “okay, here we go.”
Nothing quite prepared me for the roller coaster ride I was about to take, not even my own experience as a teenager back in the ‘80s.
Things were so different back then. My mom says she was lucky that my generation was a lot less assertive, bold and carefree.
So, based on experience, here are my suggestions on dealing with typical teenagers these days.
They’re no longer kids. They’re entitled to having privacy, and their own views, opinions and choices. Respecting their privacy is probably the most difficult thing to do, because it translates to a sense of loss. It’s tough to accept, but it’s something you have to give as they start the not-so-pleasant journey we call puberty.
My daughter is really close to her friends. But when she asks to sit down with me, it always means she really needs a mother to listen. We must resist the urge to cut in. Suspend judgment, at least until your child has finished talking. It will mean a lot that you focus and listen. Your teen will run to you more if you show interest in what he or she has to say.
It’s extremely comforting to know that your child is in good company. The only way to be certain about this is if you know who his or her friends are. Grab whatever opportunity there is to meet them. Hold a potluck lunch or dinner or even a sleepover at your home. You’d be surprised at how quickly your child’s friends will jump at the chance to hang out. I personally prefer cleaning up after my daughter and her friends over worrying about her going around unsupervised elsewhere.
This is one of the things I really struggled with. I didn’t know when to let go. Between asking for a curfew extension and getting permission to color her hair orange, I would’ve said “no” to the first request and allowed her to get orange hair instead of arguing with her about both. You’d be exhausted by the time that discussion was over. Do yourself a favor and don’t make everything a big deal.
Don’t you remember what it was like being a teenager? How did it feel when your parents constantly nagged because they didn’t trust you? You have to trust your child enough to that believe he can tell right from wrong. Remind your child how much you trust him instead of waiting for him to mess things up.
Your teenager doesn’t hate you. Even if they says so, it’s really just a way for them to express their frustrations or anger. They naturally wouldn’t want to spend too much time with you or be seen with you in public a lot. But it’s a temporary thing, or so I’ve been told.
Your teenager is no longer a child. Neither is he an adult. Many times, your teenager will fail you, and that’s because your expectations need to be a little lower. Remember that your teenager needs your guidance. Hold your child’s hand instead of passing judgment or criticism too quickly.
And above all …
You call the shots. You can be a friend but you’re still an authority figure, first and foremost. Be clear with your rules, write them down if you have to. Make sure your teen also knows why these rules exist. Follow through with implementation when needed. Consistency is key.
It hasn’t been easy for me, but I’ve learned enough to know that with a bit of patience, understanding and compromise, parents don’t have to lose their minds while raising teenagers.
Oh and when all else fails? Run to your own parents for comic relief. I’m sure they’ll be so happy to hear they’ve been vindicated!