Parents of teenagers: Unite! Sometimes it might feel like you need a battle cry to get through the trying years of parenting a teen. Parents can take solace in the fact that they are not alone. Even the most well behaved teen goes through some growing pains from time to time. Parents must learn to survive though, and they must help their teens thrive.
I remember my mom saying that by the time I was 14, she loved me but didn't like me very much and I always have that at the back of my head with my daughter. Up until now we still have a great relationship and we talk more than I ever did with my own mom.
Talking to your teen is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. Teenagers will most likely resist but don't give up. Ask the five W's: who, what, when, where and why. Who will be with them? What will they be doing? When will they be home? Where are they going? Why will they be there? If they feel like they are getting the Spanish Inquisition, you're doing it correctly.
It may be annoying to them to answer all of your questions, but it shows that you care. You'd rather not have an angst-ridden teenager wondering whether his or her parents care enough to ask the right questions. Encourage them to open up about problems in school or social issues as well. Have dinner together and talk about news stories or entertainment bits that may interest your teen. Any communication is better than no communication.
Making mistakes is a part of growing up and becoming a responsible adult. A teenager needs to learn how to make decisions and how to live with the consequences of his or her decisions. One of the hardest things for parents to do is to step back and let their children make mistakes. If you bail out your teen the first time, he or she will be destined to repeat the same errors in judgment again and again. Relax and know that your ability to back off and let your teen learn through actions will be a great benefit in the long run. (just not for our nerves in the short term).
Track and Monitor
As much as it pains me not to be nosey, you shouldn't snoop or invade your child's privacy. Developing trust between you and your teenager is one of the most important steps in keeping an open line of communication. However, in this technological age of texting, picture messaging, and internet access, it is important to keep a little control on the "reigns." Counsel your teen on the safety of keeping a certain level of anonymity on the internet, and convey the vital message that things sent over cell phones are not always easy to erase. If used correctly, mobile phones can be a great method of keeping in touch with your teen when you are not together. Teach your child how to use a cell phone safely, effectively, and politely.
The natural instinct of a teen is to pull away from his or her parents. The best way to stay in your child's life is to get involved. If your teenager plays on his high school football team, try to attend as many games as possible. Welcome his or her friends into your home and try to provide a tolerant (within reason) atmosphere for them to hang out and feel comfortable. If your house is their central hub of activity, you will be more likely to be able to keep track of the things important to your teen.
Being a teenager is not easy, and raising one is even more difficult. There are no right or wrong answers to every situation. Try to be adaptable. If you are patient and empathetic, you will soon find that your unruly teenager has become an independent adult, and you can breathe a sigh of relief.