When your child was young, your role was to nurture and guide him. Now, you might be finding that your relationship with your child is becoming more equal. If you want a healthy relationship with your teenager kids, you will need to treat them like adults. Here are some invaluable tips from Rina, a mother of a teenager, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Ah, the teen years! Most adults recall is being the most exciting time of their lives. A time for discovering who they are, discovering what God has called them to.
It’s true that family relationships change during adolescence.
When your child was young, your role was to nurture and guide him. Now, you might be finding that your relationship with your child is becoming more equal. If you want a healthy relationship with your teenager kids, you will need to treat them like adults. Family relationships tend to stay strong right through.
It’s hard to predict the pattern of their thought process, quite a few are often harsh on them. What motivates them? Why they act differently?
When we speak about teenagers, the words that spring to mind are rebellious, energetic, individualistic, unpredictable, opinionated, callow, aggressive, short-tempered among other popular descriptions.
The journey of parenting a teenager – or teenagers in several families – might leave a lot of parents broken, disillusioned, extremely tired, and questioning the reasons for the degeneration of the society. There’s seldom a parent who believes that today’s teens are the engines of social change. They command the world and its steady progress.
There’s perhaps a good reason for all this. During adolescence (read teenage years), your child leaves the familiarity of childhood and is figuring out the great unknown mystery of youth and adulthood. They’re doing all this while undergoing physical and emotional changes. They are under stress from all sides, the many pressures, academic, social and emotional.
Parents often appear to think that the teens do not understand their ‘mature’ and ‘time-tested point of views. They frequently clash with their teenaged children with the statement, “I/We know better because we’ve been there before you.” It’s rather astonishing they also state the obvious benefit being teens earlier, with statements like, “We’ve seen all of this plus more.” Thus, they often create a wedge, if not a chasm, between themselves and their teenaged children.
We have to pause for a minute to absorb the fact that the teens haven’t seen what their parents claim to have. These children, or their parents, will never have the chance to step into a time machine to witness the past or the future. They must deal with the realities of the present – the now.
The teenagers are motivated by what fetches rewards, recognition, and acceptance in the eyes of their peers, respect from the adults, and accolades from their young dates they’re hooked up with.
Here are some fun ideas you and your teenager can try – I do this with my growing up, 14-year-old son:
If you and your teenage child enjoy cooking and whipping up a meal for the family — the kitchen is your place to bond deeply. There’s something to be said about cooking that builds teamwork, communication — and is incredibly therapeutic as well. Take turns every week, pick a dish you have never tried cooking, and have fun.
Get Your Sports Accessories Out
Exercise induces all kinds of good feelings thanks to endorphins, which makes sports one of the best bonding activities. Make a weekly date to sweat it out, together. It might be shooting hoops or going for a run in your neighbourhood, and, finally, wrapping up the date with a good hearty, sumptuous meal, that’s wholesome and healthy!
Movies and drama series encompasses a rich variety of subjects and topics, among which the teen-relevant ones are gender issues, peer pressure, and mental health. Parents might pick relevant shows as starting points to broach these on topics.
Discuss and Debate
Discuss and debate but don’t argue with them. Don’t bamboozle them into silence by saying, I-know-it-all. Instead, act as if you are learning from them. Talk and laugh with them. Don’t be on your high horse or an elevated pulpit.
Check Out a New Café
Most teenagers are avid Instagrammers, yours could be too! Go cafe hopping with your teen and visit the latest places for that perfect gram. Make a list of Instagram-able cafes and places that you might visit together for your next date!
Do not Judge Teenagers
Parents have the unenviable role of being completely non-judgmental and, therefore, being friends with their teenaged children, while also being protective to nurture them through their travails and mistakes.
Challenges for Parents
It’s challenging to be able to tell teenagers they’ve made a mistake without hurting their fragile egos and proud demeanours. If this is not hard enough, parents need to ensure children imbibe excellent social and interpersonal skills that involve being respectful with genders and also cultivating humility and a humane conduct.
Talking about Birds and Bees
Teenagers do not like being told what to do; or if they are, such a suggestion can only be provided when they view a parent as being ‘competent’ to provide this suggestion. This often means a parent being strong enough to show teenagers some of their own fallibilities and coaching the teenagers through this process. Examples in everyday lives are around safe sexual conduct by alluding to one’s own growing up, alcoholism, drug use/abuse, or even mistakes in dating. Many parents dread the day their child gets into a relationship. Suddenly, their little baby is all grown up and stepping into the scary and unpredictable world of boy-girl relationships.
As parents, be open and receptive to developments in your child’s life. Let them know that you are ready to hear them out.
Share your thoughts about the personal qualities and values you hope your child’s partner should possess and why you feel these are important.
Encourage your child to introduce their partner to you. Involve your child’s partner in family gatherings or activities. Get to know them better through these family gatherings and grow more comfortable with each other
Teach Teens Happiness
Like all human beings, every teenager aims to be as successful as their minds and ambitions allow them to be. It’s only human that they are limited to several factors outside of their control. And like everyone, they are victims of self-confidence and doubts. Teach them the value of hard work and dignity of labour. Tell them that they can plan their happiness, when they learn to succeed with ease, sans pressures and associated negativities.
Why Should a Parent Think Less of a Teenager?
The answer is in being able to transform from a protective and caring nurturer to becoming a friend and a buddy; without diluting the respect that comes from being a parent directly. Most parents cannot let go of the fact that their children are growing up and confident to experiment with decisions based on their thoughts and experiences. These experiences are different from what parents might have faced. Their level of challenge is different. They have an overexposure of information.
A Mother’s Challenges
A mother, for instance, would be challenged in the 1980’s by stepping into the workplace and carving a name for herself, as much as a mother would be challenged today in just being able to do justice to her multiple roles. Society is harsh and judgmental. That is something teenagers have to be coached – be conscious but not afraid of the society.
Discovering the Wheel, Every Time
At every moment of life in the teenage years, it is imperative and challenging for the parent to not lose the child in the effort to be a cool buddy parent or an overprotective and domineering one.
Every parent seeks their teenaged children to grow into confident, mature adults that approach life with a sense of purpose and vision. Every parent needs to discover the wheel for themselves. No two teenagers, even siblings, are alike. That’s the challenge we must live up to.
It’s important to remember the only vision and purpose that teenagers will follow is often their own. The process is to coach them to seek alternative paths and routes to their excellence. Their life is theirs alone; as much as a parent’s life is his/her own.
Nobody said parenting is the best profession. Nobody said parenting is a profession either. It’s the journey of a lifetime and it’s the journey to help a young human being to steer themselves confidently through their lives.
We, as parents, are just their roadmaps, their GPS.
Illustrations by Rina and pictures from the Internet.
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