Parenting is probably the hardest job in the world, and taking care of your kids is one of the most challenging yet rewarding roles that you will ever have. During babyhood, we tend to think that nothing could be harder when our little ones are not sleeping through the night or having crying fits. Then you go through the terrible toddler stage, the stubborn five year old stage, and then there is a brief period of calm… but then it hits you. Before you know it the teenage years arrive, along with a whole slew of new issues to stress out about.
But as difficult as those years are for you to get through, it is a whole lot harder on the teens themselves. The combination of rampant hormones and uncertainty about a world that is quickly opening up to them means that they often feel nervous about taking their first steps into the big bad world all by themselves–despite the bravado that might mask their uncertainty. Luckily, as their parents, we have tools to help make these unsettled teenage years slightly easier.
Lead By Example
The best way for any child to learn is by watching others. You probably figured this out when your kids followed you around when they were toddlers repeating everything you said like they were parrots. However, this approach also extends into the teenage years. The way you treat people will affect the way your kids treat people, so it is very important to check your own behavior and to make sure that you are a positive role model by treating people with kindness and gentleness at all times. After all, you want your kids to learn from the best.
Be Conscious Of Mental Health Issues
Many teenagers these days suffer from mental health issues so it is a good idea for you to be on the look out for any warning signs. You might think that people who are depressed just end up crying all the time–and although this may be a symptom, it is an illness that can manifest itself in a number of ways.
If your child seems jittery, has anxiety over school, lost interest in their hobbies and socializing with their friends, or seems unusually withdrawn and uncommunicative then they may be suffering from depression or anxiety. Make sure that they have someone in their lives they can openly talk to, whether that is you, a friend, another family member, a teacher, or a therapist.
Keep Communicating With Their Teachers
Every parent of a teen has heard the answer “Fine” followed by absolutely nothing else when politely inquiring what kind of day their child had at school. A lot of the time, communication and honesty are not the strong points of teenagers, so it is important that you stay in touch with their school during this time.
Read all the emails and messages that are sent home and make sure that all the parent teacher conferences you attend are productive. Write down a list of questions to ask before you meet with the teacher. Do your best to be neutral without defending your child against his or her teachers or assuming the worst of your child. Finally, remember that a lot of the time kids get punished enough at school without you needing to be too hard on them at home as well.
Keep An Eye On Social Media
Social media is a whole new world for many of us. Even if you use Facebook or Pinterest, there is still the murky world of Snapchat and Tumblr to navigate. The truth is that you will never know exactly what your kids are doing online every minute. They are entitled to a little privacy as they grow up.
However, you can monitor their reactions to it. If they seem upset by the interactions they are having online then it is time to cut down on their screen time. Remember that cyberbullying exists, and in order to protect your kids let them know that you are available to talk to them. Consider limiting their time on social media, and making sure they shut down electronics about an hour before bedtime to unwind.
Teach Them About Consent
Teenage years bring some of the most difficult times as our kids start dating. There is very little that a teenager stresses out about more than their romantic relationships. It is important for you to make sure your relationship is a good, healthy model for your kids to emulate and that you and your partner talk to each other with patience and thoughtfulness.
Consent is a hot topic at the moment and you need to teach your daughters and your sons about it. Remember that no means no, and that your kids should never feel pressured to do anything they do not want to do. Make sure that they know you will always be around to bring them home from situations that they do not free comfortable in. Although you do not necessarily want to act as a cab service, you can be a great escape route for your kids if they are in over their heads. Let them know they can call you at any time–day or night.
Be A Sympathetic Ear
Most of all, you need to ensure that your kids think of you as someone who will listen to them without judging them. Avoid punishing them too harshly because they may become reluctant to come to you to talk about things that might be bothering them if they are worried about your reactions. Openness is something that you should encourage throughout these years.
How do you stay connected to your teen and on top of their activities?