Parenting a teen can be one of the most tricky times as a parent. One minute they are the sweet child you remember, the next minute they are rolling their eyes in disgust at you! So far, for me, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, so here are some tips on how to navigate the teenage years:
It does genuinely feel like that the lovely happy child that you had suddenly becomes this miserable, grumpy teen who argues at everything you say. You feel like you are the “baddy” no matter what you say to them. They don’t share things with you in anymore, in fact they could act secretively, and it feels like they are locking you out of their lives.
On top of that, you’re worried about issues like safety if they are out, how they are dealing with peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, never mind the whole area of sex!
It’s tough parenting a teen, that’s for sure.
Navigating the Teenage Years
Dr John Sharry says that “Being a parent is a bit like being the captain on a long boat or plane journey with your children. You start the journey with destination in mind and a navigation plan, but throughout the journey you can get thrown off course by different challenges and problems much in the same way as a plane is put off course by the weather or other air traffic.”
A plane journey is quite a good analogy for the parenting of a teen journey, sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy with navigation definitely needed to go the course of these years.
Here are some tips to hopefully help you navigate these teenage years:
#1. Remember it is difficult for teens too
Just as we parents find the roadmap of parenting has changed, remember that teens are undergoing huge amounts of changes in a short period of time. So not surprising they may be scared, confused or lack confidence.
They are changing physically which makes them feel potentially self-conscious and awkward. They are changing emotionally and can be subject to mood swings. They are becoming intellectually more sophisticated, they are developing their own opinions and views on the world.
Their teen brains are actually going through a whole new stage of development too, their prefrontal cortext (the part of the brain that helps you with decision making and judgement) is underdeveloped, so this explains why they make decisions that seem to adults to lack in good judgement. So rather than get angry if they make what seems to be a stupid decision, take a deep breath and remember this is underdeveloped brain time!
#2. Being a Good Co-Pilot
I really like Dr Sharry’s advice about being a good co-pilot. He points that out that when a child is born the parent is in the pilot’s seat and is very much in charge of the controls. You are making all the decisions whether that is about what they wear that day, where they go, who they see and so on. He advises parents of teens to “change your role to that of ‘co-pilot’ where the aim is to slowly teach your children all they need to become confident adults and to be able to responsibly fly their own plane!”
So support them but let them learn from their mistakes and achievements. Start to let go and hand over responsibilities of being an independent adult slowly but surely. Don’t be tempted to do everything for them all the time. Make sure you show them and help them learn skills that they will need when they venture out from home finally, skills like
- managing their cash
- grocery shopping
- cooking basic meals
- how to wash clothes
#3. Don’t fear letting go
I know I have. But I’ve been teaching myself slowly to let go and let my daughter be in control.
Remember never be critical of them trying their way.
And remember also to give them guidance when they need and do ask for it. I find my daughter asks me for help if she needs to contact a teacher and what to say to them, so I have been showing her that it’s ok to ask for something that she needs from a teacher and that she can be polite but quietly confident (and that teachers are human beings too!).
#4. Remember you are a role model
If you want your teen to learn how to be a strong, independent adult then show them how to be one.
You are absolutely their number one role model, after all they live with you and watch you every day!
Think a little about how it comes across when you rant about someone that annoyed you or how you reacted to a challenge that came up.
If you make a mistake show how you make up for it or learn from it.
And always be willing to say I’m sorry I was wrong. This goes a long way in my experience so far.
#5. Try not to take the grumps personally
Depending on your personality it can be tricky when your teen is grumpy at you, criticises you or even berates you. Take a deep breath and try not to react straight away.
Teen stresses (emotional, physical, intellectual) mean it’s easier for them to lash out than talk to you.
If they are rebelling against you, remember it’s not a personal attack on you but it’s part of them forging their own identity.
Just to try be there for them, be involved in as far as they will let you and show them constantly that you support them.
#6. Remember this is their last part of their childhood with you
I feel more than a bit emotional at the thought that my teen is growing so quickly and will be gone from home sooner rather than later. This is the later stage of their childhood with you and it should be a time of opportunity, an opportunity to get to know your older child in a new way, as a young nearly adult rather than a child. So work at developing a new relationship with each other.
Staying involved in my teen’s life means I am sharing in her achievements and I am enjoying the things she is discovering and is thrilled about. I feel privileged to be part of her life just now and I’m determined to enjoy every minute (grumps and all!).
Over to you now. Do you have any tips to share from your experience of the teenage years? Share them with us in the comments below.