This article is here because a friend of my daughter’s commented, “Your mother is cool.” She’s a fantastic mother.” It got us thinking about what makes a good teen parent.
My daughters are 18 and 15, and I don’t believe I always get it correctly. However, after asking on social media, I believe I will have a smooth ride.
So, from my daughter’s perspective, as well as coaching and my own, here’s how to make the most of your adolescent years for you and your children.
1. Know How They Wind You up
Teens know how to anger their parents in every way possible. Before you engage with them, figure out what triggers you and focus on yourself.
As a general rule, if you wouldn’t talk to a coworker like that, don’t talk to your child like that. Your goal is to help them grow into successful individuals, and this is a process that should begin at birth.
You want them to be able to communicate effectively to obtain what they want, to be strong-willed, confident, and capable in the big wide world, even as young toddlers.
As a result, you must serve as a role model for them. And it’s not easy when they’re putting pressure on you.
Find yours and desensitize yourself to them. (For me, I can internally laugh and think “What must I have sounded like to my Mum at this age?” And that diffuses any frustration.
2. Understand Why They Grunt
“Why do they grunt – they communicated better when they were 7!” you might think.
Teenagers are discovering who they are (and there are lots of grownups who don’t!) As a result, don’t expect them to act as they did when they were young and cute.
When you receive grunts and groans when you offer things to do, it’s not because they’re saying “That’s the worst idea ever;” it’s because they’re wondering, “Is it alright to be me?” How are you going to do it? Is it possible to live like this? “Do you really want this?” They are inquiring:
- Where do I fit in the world?
- What do I want to do?
- What should I train to be?
- Will I have to move town?
- How will I cope?
Many questions that any adult would find daunting, and when you know the science that their brains do not finish growing until they are in their 20’s, you can see why you might have days where you have the equivalent of a Teen Zombie on your hands.
Ask yourself if you could cope with your job, family life, friends, chores and still find the brain space to answer the big life questions.
According to research by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore whose research lab is based at UCL in London,
“The answer is this: the prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotional responses and inhibits risk-taking, is going through physiological changes that make some adolescents act in such seemingly incomprehensible ways.”
When you consider the prefrontal cortex functions in cognitive control (planning, attention, problem-solving, error monitoring, decision making, social cognitive, and working memory) you can start to see why they forget to empty the dishwasher or behave as they did. It really is not their fault!
3. Deal with Your Own Feelings
They are growing up and inevitably they are going to leave home. While many cheers there’s still that sinking empty nest feeling that can have many negative connotations:
- “I wish they would appreciate me.”
- “They don’t know how easy they’ve got it.” Etc etc.
Finally, it may cause us to ponder the following:
What am I supposed to do?
What role will I play in their future plans? (Or even if I do, will I?)
Don’t get ahead of yourself; be grateful for the time you have — it’s finite.
When my son reminded me that this could be his final Christmas stocking, I became agitated. (Yes, we still do it; read on to find out why.) “I’m not gone yet,” my son told me, “you’ve got me for another 14 months.” I had to keep a melancholy sigh from escaping my lips.
But he was, of course, correct. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll be a part of his future. It’s difficult to recognize that your duty at this age is to conform to standards.
But then, you remember there will be a whole new myriad of ways they will want and need support, and of course therefore your jobs are not over yet.
4. Respect the Door (And Get It Reinforced – They Will Slam It!)
Things are changing, and they need space to figure out what that means, just as you desperately want to cling to the cute kid who used to race home from school and want a cuddle and to tell you everything.
If their door is shut, respect it by knocking before entering. Don’t worry, nothing evil is going on in there. It demonstrates that you value their privacy. These small, unsaid things will begin to speak to your teen in a favorable way.
You want them to appreciate your solitude and quiet time, too – and my kids are a lot more respectful of me now that I’ve shown them more respect. This leads us to…
5. Relinquish Control – Start Them Young. (8 to 10 Years Old)
When and how will I hand over control? How fast are you going? And why is it necessary to introduce this?
Our children have never had a bedtime since they were that age. We’d talk about how tired they thought they were and when they wanted to sleep.
Yes, on evenings when they were plainly fatigued, they would say, “I feel wide away Mummy,” and then the talk would move on to:
“So, do you suppose there’s a reason you keep yawning?”
“What do you suppose it implies when Mummy yawns?”
This is a coaching question that shifts the burden of accountability back on the other person. It also teaches kids to listen to their bodies, which is crucial during the adolescent years.
You can’t expect a 19-year-old to magically get up ready for a day at work or university if you didn’t help them learn to listen to their own bodies years in advance.
6. It’s Okay to Play
I inquired as to why my daughter’s buddy thought I was a good father. She mentioned that, while I was “scary,” (code for having high expectations), I encouraged her to play.
Is it OK for a bunch of 15-year-old girls to jump around in a pool and play like kids? As I pointed out at the time, you’re in a private garden, so you may squeal with delight and play volleyball without fear of being judged – it’s still legal at 15.
That’s why my kids still put up a Christmas tree every year. Don’t rush towards adulthood.
Only when I bring fun into the session as a coach can someone truly deal with significant difficulties in their lives.
Lead by example, let them see fun is not off the agenda just because you grow up – they have incredibly creative minds at this age, so enable and empower that and they could benefit for their whole lives.
7. Know When to Loosen the Leash
Social media and phones, in general, can be a massive headache for parents.
“You spend your life on that phone,” ask yourself why.
Is it because they hate the real world and it’s more fun?
Is it because they can virtually hang out with their friends no matter where they are or what “lame” task they’re working on? Sharing with a friend might help lighten the load. It’s the same for you.
“Get outside,” “Don’t you want to go play with your friends?” I was often chastised for putting my head in a book when I was a kid. Every weekend and holiday, I’d hear it. Reading is a great way for me to unwind and learn.
A location where I can clear my mind without having to interact with anyone or anything – and that phone does the same for them. Instead of limiting their time and controlling when and where they can use it, have a dialogue with your teen about how they prefer to use their phone.
“How can I give you your space and time with your friends every day and get to hear about your day too?”
8. Teach off Line Time by Getting off Line
Our interconnected worlds are wonderful for reducing loneliness, but they may also cause us to question who we are, which can lead to a loss of confidence and worry.
The Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom questioned 1500 young people aged 14 to 24 to see how social media affected concerns including anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and body image.
They discovered that YouTube had the most positive impact on mental health, while Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all had negative effects.
9. Don’t Assume What You See Is What You Are Getting
Adults hide their true emotions all the time. I know that sometimes the last thing my kids want is me in their room, but other times they want a chat and someone listening to them.
Don’t go in strong – still, be who you’ve always been to them but read the signs:
- Longer gaming than usual.
- Sitting in the dark on the phone.
- Not wanting to eat with you.
- Getting home and hiding in the room without even saying hello.
- More short tempered than usual.
- Eating more or less.
There’re many and you know your child. Trust your gut instinct but don’t go in all guns blazing “Let mummy fix it!” The door will be slammed in your face or you will hear “Ergh, mum you just don’t get it.”
With teens, it’s all about the timing.
10. Remember That No Conversation Is off Limits
While this may seem intimidating and even unpleasant, if you aren’t prepared to answer their questions when and how they need them addressed, they will turn to the internet – and 31% of youngsters have shared a fake news story.
My acquaintance stated that they would not discuss sex with their 10-year-old since it was inappropriate, only for it to be brought up in a conversation in front of me.
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be in graphic detail. A simple answer is typically plenty – and if you encounter an overly enthusiastic questioner, there are numerous publications available to assist you and them in learning the subject without making them feel as if they are losing their youth before your eyes.
That way they will grow up knowing they can trust you to give them true and honest answers. Treating like young adults.
Isn’t that the whole point? If you’re seeing red and struggling, they’re at the age where they’ll be moving out in a few years and that’ll be the end of it for this period.
Every half term is one of my favorites. Every grouse about a professor. Every detailed account of “she said, he said” since they will have new people in their lives in a few years — girlfriends, boyfriends… Then you’re knocked off their pedestal for good!
Teething and sleep were something I’d read about in a fairy tale, as my mother told me when my children were young. But I didn’t believe they were true; I’d asked, “Mum, does it get easier?” and my mother replied, smiling, “It doesn’t get easier.”
So I look forward to what the next stage will bring – probably no less worry, no less fun, no fewer conversations but, possibly more place settings at the table and some exciting times. Another reason to cherish every day now.