Raising teenagers comes with an entirely different set of struggles than raising younger children. In their early years, your job was to keep them alive until they could learn not to cross the street alone and that fire was hot. As they grew, it was your job to teach them the importance of being honest and doing the right things. Now your teenager is struggling for their independence, but happy to keep the creature comforts of home close at hand. You are now the parent of a young man or woman.
Because teenagers are striving to be independent, they don’t always make the best choices. Often they want to live in the adult world without adult responsibilities. They enjoy their friends more than their family, and they want to go about their own business without interference from a parental unit. However, quietly inside they still crave parental guidance and love and attention. Relating to your teenager doesn’t have to be terribly difficult, and there is no right formula. Teenagers tend to push their parents away just when they need them the most. Your teen, regardless of their outward appearance or their standoffish attitude, really craves a parent’s approval and understanding. Most teenagers don’t go to their parents for guidance because they believe their parents won’t understand their issues.
It’s impossible to say that things are the same as they were when we were kids, or that they are entirely different. Kids today have access to a lot more information, they have access to more illegal substances, and they have access to the adult world more than even those of us in our late twenties and early thirties did. The issues are almost the same, the venues are different, and in many cases, more tempting and more dangerous.
Many parents today try to be their kid’s friend instead of their parent in an effort to relate to them better. It is possible to be a “cool” parent without losing the parental role. Raising teenagers is not an easy job and it may take a few varied attempts to find the right parenting style that works for everyone. Being too harsh drives kids away and being too soft allows kids to walk all over you. Of course, there are times when the action demonstrated by the teenager calls for harsh discipline.
It’s easy to forget, as kids enter the ages of 15, 16, and 17, that even though they look grown up, they are still very much kids. And kids like attention. They like to be noticed and they need their feelings and their points taken seriously. When kids feel they are being heard, respected, and honored, they tend to respond better to parentally determined outcomes than when they feel they are not heard or respected.
It is possible to respect your teenager but still be a parent. Most kids can get on a soapbox and preach for hours about their right to privacy and how parents should never search a child’s room. However, what if it’s a matter of safety? What if it’s potentially life threatening, such as a search for drugs? Five of the top world renowned psychologists recommend searching a child’s room only when a parent feels their child may be in danger, however, they also recommend telling the teen that it’s about to happen and offering the chance to step forward and offer anything that the parent may strongly disapprove of. They also recommend searching the room with the child present. Random searches for no reason send the message that you don’t trust your teenager. However, if your teenager is giving you reason not to trust them, their safety is more important.
Kids also feel as though they are subject to too many rules. Many experts recommend setting up a real life scenario for one summer to teach kids that adults have just as many if not more rules. A job, bills to pay (most parents put the money paid for bills aside in a savings account) and real life consequences for not meeting those requirements such as a mock repossession of a car and forcing them to solve the problem of homelessness when they have not paid their rent on time (this is in no way implying that they should actually be homeless.) These scenario exercises often help kids realize that the rules are there to protect them and to teach them to be healthy and responsible adults.
It’s not uncommon for parents to dislike their child’s choice of friends. Forbidding these friendships on the grounds of dislike is not really fair. It may also be teaching them judgment instead of acceptance. However, forbidding friendships that have caused significant trouble such as the introduction of alcohol or drugs into their lives or skipping school together is reasonable. Just remember that they will still see each other in school and the most you can do is forbid them from hanging out after school or on weekends.
Teenagers operate best when they are well rested, getting good nutrition, and have a stable home with set rules and understood consequences. As time goes on, rules can relax, but not until the teenager has proven they are responsible enough to handle extra freedom, as well as extra responsibility. Raising teenagers takes an understanding of what is going on in their lives, what issues they face, and knowing how they are choosing to deal with them. This takes communication, something which teens are not always willing to participate in. The stronger the communication, the better the parent is able to judge and determine what is most appropriate for their child.
With every headache, fear, unknown possibility, sleepless night, and error in judgment a teenager puts a parent through, teenagers can also be the greatest joy. It is a miracle to watch as the hard work from previous years unfolds into those moments of thoughtfulness, good judgment, kindness, earnesty, honesty, and humor.
Teenagers are a joy when their world is in order. They are helpful and funny and offer a parent a view of the world they could not otherwise know. Despite the anger and tension a teenager can inflict on a household, they can also become the center of a a household’s joy.