Picture this…your daughter has made it to her senior year in high school, she’s confident in herself, is a straight A student, top of her class, successfully juggles work, sports and school, everyone loves her, she has a good attitude, is ambitious, well rounded, and responsible. It’s basically everything you could ever hope for your daughter to become.
So why do we cringe then when people ask us, “so are you ready for the teenage years?” Why do most of us dread these years? Well we can’t help to feel that way when we hear stories like “my daughter committed suicide, my son is getting into fights at school, they are being bullied, my daughter is pregnant, my kids rebel at us every chance they get, getting into trouble with the law, and of course, my kids have major attitude.
BUT…..What if there was a magic pill that we could give to our kids that will guarantee they turn out like the perfect angel we envision them to grow up to be? Hah! Fat chance right?
The truth is that we can’t guarantee our kid’s teen years will be smooth sailing. Obviously we all know that much. As parents, we have the best of intentions for our kids. So if there is no magic pill, what would be the next best thing? A friend recommended, “Taking off to Hawaii for a few years to meditate and find enlightenment while the husband stays back and holds up the fort”. Sigh…if only that was reality.
In all seriousness, I do believe we as parents, can make or break these teenage years.
As a parent who has yet to go through this phase myself, there is tremendous value in learning from parents who have survived the much dreaded teenage years.
So I hope to share some advice that I have collected and some “things I would have done differently” from other parents that you and I may be able glean from to help us to best prepare ourselves and our kids through their adolescent life as best as possible. The more we know, the better we can prepare.
- Always listen listen listen. Have a lot of discussions and talk with them about everything. Praise them when they share with you “So glad you were able to tell me that” So the communication ways stay open. You want them to come to you when they face a tough choice. Also have many talks about sex. Made huge difference in late teen sand early 20’s.
- Set clear expectations and boundaries so that you can give them their independence and room to make mistakes and learn and grow from it
- Teach money and responsibilities at an earlier age
- Be more open minded
- Encourage them to make their own decisions so they would become independent & self determined individuals
- Don’t lecture, preach, or nag, but rather listen and guide them. Respect their thoughts
- Earning money to get what they wanted. Saving more for it makes the appreciate and value life more. Teach then they can do and become who or whatever they dream, when they get out in the world, but for now do what I say when you’re under my roof
- So I can pass on my bullet proof vest, cape, safety goggles and box of tissues and tell all of you to hold on, be consistent, set boundaries, learn to deflect the eye roll, monitor social media and communicate with your child as their parent
- Too many outlets these days ie via social media so it allows them to avoid the issue instead of facing it. Social media makes heightens peer pressure, low self image and self esteem because it’s so easy to see your friends and compare yourself, even though it is all a facade.
- Don’t fight with them to get your way. Work on compromise and problem solving with them. Let them take the lead on coming up with a game plan because that’s the only one that will work
- Don’t give them everything they want, make them earn it themselves
- Let them fall down a few more times in life. I look back and think I didn’t prepare them well enough for disappointment in the real world.
- Set expectations but let them create their path (earn money, behavior, respect, set goals etc)
- Provide structure and keep them busy in their younger years with activities so they have less opportunity to get themselves into trouble or associate with the wrong friends
- Be 100% open and honest
- Instruct them that they always have choices, but consider the consequence of each decision
- would be more hands on with their goings and not so much freedom. Talk more
- Never be so busy that you don’t have the time
- Teach them to be a leader and not a follower.
All of these pointers are so important! Boy do we have a lot of work to do ahead of us to prepare. The one thing I have been hearing being repeated multiple times is to do whatever you can to make sure the line of communication is open. The last thing we want is for our kids to shut down and feel like they can’t come to us to discuss their problems.
If you have read this far, you’re probably thinking, “sure…easier said than done!” No doubt about it. All we can do is our best and hope for the best. What I do know for sure is that the earlier we can incorporate some of these skills and values into our kids, the easier it will be when our kids become teenagers themselves.
Among all the dreaded stories are the ones that give us new parents the hope that our kids will turn out ok. That we can trust them to make good and safe choices. Stories that inspires us to strive to experience the same kind of relationships with our kids and stories that we can look forward to for ourselves as well. So there is light at the end of the tunnel when you hear comments like these:
“I have 3 teenage girls 14, 16, 18 and 22 year old son. I am loving this stage of life more than any other stages so far”
“I’m loving the teen years so far!!!…I have 2 teenage boys, they’re like little men, with their own opinions and jokes! Fun time for sports”
“It has its definite stresses but I love it! The conversations are awesome”
“It is so fun to watch them grow into the adults they will be, and the conversations we have now I wouldn’t trade for anything”
So let’s get out there and raise our kids to grow up into strong, independent, and successful men and women of the future. Let’s not dread the teen years but instead, look forward to them and make them be the best years we possibly can.