Have you begun to notice changes taking place within your child’s body, attitude and behavior? Has your usually sweet and adoring child suddenly begun asserting themselves in ways not seen before, including being rude, defiant and sometimes downright obnoxious? Perhaps you have looked at your preteen and silently wondered, “who are you and what have you done with my child?”
Last year your daughter was so “cute and sweet” but now she has an “attitude”, and your son who used to be your best buddy is now treating you like you’re not so “cool” anymore. Welcome to parenting a teenager. Mark Twain offered one solution on how to survive the teenage years: “Put them in a barrel, and nail it shut until they turn nineteen. Only then should you let them out.” Amen to that!
Seriously though, adolescence is a very difficult time for young people and parents to contend with, causing some parents to wonder if it’s even possible to survive the teen years without permanent damage. Physical changes, pressures to conform to social trends and numerous peer pressures, expectations from family members and teachers, reek havoc on the lives of teens and parents (proven by the increased numbers of gray hairs suddenly appearing on parents heads).
How to Talk to Teenagers
Parenting an teenager requires parents to learn and understand healthy adolescent development, and begin thinking and acting more in terms of influence rather than control, which is much easier said than done. Learning how to talk to teens and preteens about dating and relationship problems, teenage sex, drugs, drinking alcohol and other risky behaviors, in a way that keeps teens talking to parents can be difficult but well worth the effort.
Parents with teens have to listen more than they talk, paying keen attention to really hearing what their teens are saying with the words used, as well as tone and body language shown. Adolescents have spent at least a decade of their lives as listeners and doing what they were told to do in most situations, but are now making the gradual move towards independent thinking and decision-making, and learning how to define themselves and their own identity.
These changes include testing limits and parental boundaries in order to begin shifting the balance of power and authority in their own direction as they mature. As a parent, I’d be more concerned if my teens were not testing limits, as this is a normal (yet frustrating) part of growing up.
Get a Grip. It’s Not About You
One of the most difficult, emotionally painful aspects of dealing with the onset of the teen years, is the sudden realization that the kind of connection and closeness once enjoyed with your child has now begun to shift into a more mature one. Plainly put, it hurts to let go of our children.
I can still remember when each of my children reached the stage in their development when I recognized the physical and emotional changes within them beginning to shift from child to teenager. Despite the emotional hurt, it is crucial for teenagers to begin distancing themselves from their parents, and parents must not prevent this normal behavior change from taking place by being too attached to their child.
Fortunately, family psychologist Mike Riera has written “Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying”, and this is by far the best parenting manual on dealing with teenagers that I’ve ever found, which explains a variety of strategies parents can use to improve their relationships and communication with their children and teens.
From moving from a “Manager” to a “Consultant” role in a teens life, from working with a teens uniquely exasperating sleep rhythms to having real conversations when only monosyllables have been previously possible, Staying Connected to Your Teenager demonstrates ways to bring out the best in a teen-and, consequently, in an entire family.
Anyone with children that are soon to become teenagers, or parents with existing teenagers, will be profoundly affected by reading Mr. Riera’s phenomenal book, and the improved communication and connection had with your teens will help immensely in carrying your family through the difficult times ahead. You will survive the teen years, and so they will they.
Parents Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Let’s Talk About Teens and Sex
Jobs For Teens-Child Safety and Prevention
You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Say About You
Building Self-Confidence in Children With Self-Esteem Activities
Relationship Deal-Breakers: Non-Negotiable Boundaries
Are You An Enabler? Identifying Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors
How to Deal With Teenage Abusive Relationships