Monday, July 08, 2024

Tips For Parenting Teens

All right, I am not an expert in parenting but I am a mother of two teenage boys and a preteen girl AND I have been teaching teenagers since 2001. I did write earlier on parenting tweens but haven't talked about the teen years. There seems to be an endless supply of parenting advice for newborns and toddlers but what about the wild ages of 13-18? What to expect when you're...a parent of teens?  This is what I would say:

1. Educate yourself on what they are interested in.  I was not "into" volleyball growing up but now I can tell you a thing or two about outside hitters and X-balls! I tried to follow along with how other teams were doing and what our stats were etc. With another son, I read a book on chess and printed up a "cheat sheet" and played a game against him. When it was clear this was not my thing, I reached out a friend's son to play with him so that he would always have someone to play. I bought him chess socks to let him know I see his interests. I also try to keep up with the slang of the year but generally do not use it--not cool, bro.

2. Cheer them on. Whatever it is that they are into--chess, volleyball, reading, up. There were times when my oldest did not want me at his games; often that was when the games weren't going well and he felt embarrassed. I know for myself, I said to my parents that it didn't matter if they came to my events or not because I knew they were busy, but when they did come, it meant a lot. I do check in beforehand to see if they want me to talk with them at the event, if it's okay to cheer and whether I can converse with their friends and/or coach.

3. Let them have all the food.  They are growing rapidly and will consume massive amounts of calories. You may have provided homemade, nutrient filled meals up until this point and suddenly they will crave all the sugar. Like, a sickening amount. At first, I fought it. But now? Due to the fact that they are super active, I'm okay with having some chips, pop and donuts in my home. Are there too many trips to 7 Eleven? Yes. Is this a battle I need to take on? No. They may not want to go on walks with you or out as a family which is a hard transition. Throw in some food and you may increase your chances that they will join in!

4. Use your walks and drives.  You've probably heard before that kids open up when you are in the car together, driving side by side, looking ahead. I would encourage you to not freak out and just respond calmly to all that is said. I have a HUGE urge to ask a million questions but try to not be too much. I take my younger two on short walks almost every day, it helps them to get that extra energy out before bed and ensures there is one on one time if possible. Oh, and once your own child starts driving, those car rides are a whole lot less frequent! Being a personal taxi cab might be exhausting but it's a great way to get to know your child better AND their friends.

One of my kids really wanted a metal detector=more walks

5. There are massive benefits to life skills and jobs. When our oldest got his first real job, I was nervous that he wasn't "ready"--really, very few are! He loved it and I was so grateful as I struggle with his desire to sometimes just stay home, in bed, on his phone. He works hard and has earned a lot of money for post secondary! Gary, my husband, is great at teaching them life skills like changing a light fixture, changing a tire, inflating bike tires etc. Although it may be easier to do it without them, it's great to involve them and have them feel a greater sense of independence. 

6. Share your own stories of failure and ask for forgiveness. Kids LOVE learning about our own childhood stories but we often keep some secret until they are old enough to appreciate and understand it. One time when my child made a poor decision, I shared my own shame-filled story from when I was a similar age and he could see that we all make mistakes and learn from them. No one is perfect. This doesn't mean there aren't consequences, there are for sure. However, knowing that I, a major rule follower, messed up, allowed him to feel less embarrassed. 

 In regards to saying "I'm sorry", I have a very distinct memory of my dad saying it and I have tried to incorporate that into my life more. "I'm sorry that I wasn't listening" "You're right, I'm sorry, that came out quite harshly" etc. We are not perfect. We are human and trying to learn and grow, just like they are.

7. Let them fail. This is 100% the hardest one for me. I see the potential and want them to be their very best. They may not see things the way you do. In fact, they won't. There are natural consequences to staying up too late, not studying, or forgetting to pack a lunch. These are safe failures. Yes, they might not get the grades they want to get a scholarship. They may be hungry at school or have to spend their own money on lunch. They might be late for work. These are not life or death situations and will help them in the long run. I think. I hope!

I'm curious, what would YOU add to this list as a parent OR as a teenager yourself?

Looking for advice on how to parent teenagers? Here are a few that I have!

Love, Louise

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