Tips for the Teen Years

Family PhotoBy Abby Bordner

I’ve always braced myself for parenting teens. My young children were adorable and manageable.  But I’ve feared parenting teens ever since I became a mother.

Teens scare me; their ambivalence and recklessness. I never thought I’d be able to relate to a teen. They’re so aloof and unconcerned. They make bad decisions. They make their parents crazy. Right?!

My son turned 15 years-old last week. Surprisingly, he hasn’t turned into the monster I have been bracing myself for.  Actually, he’s the adorable 5 year old, the brave 10 year old and the funny 12 year old I already know! He’s my son in a large (yes, large, over 6 feet tall) body. He’s going into 10th grade next year. He wants to take driver’s ed. He is always hungry. And he’s still my boy.

So, the good news is… parenting my teenage boy has not been the nightmare I was expecting. In fact, he’s pretty cool. He has interests, opinions, manners and ambition. I’m very proud of him.

For those of you with children younger than teens, I’ve put together some tips to help you and your child prepare for entering the teen years. Or perhaps, if you already have teens you’ll recognize how important these things are.

  1. Insist on manners. It is important to me that my children are respectful. I’m so proud when they can meet someone new, shake their hand and look them in the eye, engage in a thoughtful conversation and politely make their acquaintance.
  2. Let your children have their own relationships with familiar adults. I used to insert myself in my child’s interactions with adults; translating or prompting my children. Actually, I enjoy seeing them share their own point of view and interact all on their own.
  3. Let them make decisions. Making good decisions is an important skill for your teen to have. So, start early! The process of learning how to make good decisions comes from lots of opportunities to use thoughtfulness, foresight, imagination and anticipating the consequences.
  4. Make it a priority to enjoy your children and have them enjoy YOU! I love it when my children choose to go for a walk with me or sit next to me at a dinner party. Now that they’re older, they can choose to spend time with me (or not) and can choose to share about their lives with me (or not). I’m so glad we’ve spent lots of enjoyable time together so they look forward to being with me.
  5. Talk to your children about your values and goals. Share with them what is important to you and what is a challenge for you. Explain the struggles you face and how you manage. Discuss your successes and how you feel about them. Break it down into a conversation that outlines how you face problems, manage your stress, communicate with others and set out to accomplish the things that are important to you. They need to know this!
  6. Don’t rush to rescue! Our children learn from their own challenges and mistakes. Leave some things in their life to manage on their own (within reason) and take a step back. Ask them to communicate with teachers about things. Ask them to email their coach to discuss a concern. They can begin to take responsibility for themselves.
  7. Make your expectations SUPER clear. My son has an ability to misinterpret some of my requests and err on the side of not enough communication at times. I tell him exactly what I need from him. If he’s going out with friends; call me when you get there, tell me the adult who is in the house, call me if you leave the house and let me know when you’re on your way home. No room for misinterpretation.
  8. Get to know his/ her friends. Offer your house as a place to gather. Meet his/ her friends, shake their hands, look into their eyes and welcome them. Get to know their parents and stay involved.

I’ve still got my 10 year old daughter to escort through her teen years so I’ve got more learning still to come. I enjoy teens more than I expected and (phew!) it’s turning out that some of my early investments in parenting and building a solid relationship with my kids is paying off!

What are your concerns about parenting teens? Or do you have tips that helped you parent teens?

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