Your child isn’t a little kid anymore. So now it’s time to tweak your parenting skills to keep up with them as teens. Now they are probably moodier than when they were kids. Also, new responsibilities for you have come up: dating, driving a car, piercings, sex talks, and new friends that maybe you don’t like.
Your teen, for sure, will test your limits, and your patience. But you still love them. And, though they won’t admit it, they do too! Here are some things that could be helpful for you to know while raising a teenager:
- Don’t always expect the worst.
Many parents approach raising teenagers as a nightmare, believing they can only watch helplessly as their lovable children transform into unpredictable monsters.
But that sets you — and your teen — up for several unhappy, unsatisfying years together.
Sometimes we give teenagers the message that they are only ‘good’ if they don’t do ‘bad’ things, such as doing drugs and alcohol, hanging around with the wrong crowd, or having sex. However, negative expectations can actually promote the behavior you fear most. One study showed that teens whose parents expected them to get involved in risky behaviors reported higher levels of these behaviors one year later.
Then, focus on your teen’s positive actions and hobbies. You could open a new path of communication, reconnect with the child you love, and learn something new.
- Trust your instincts
Many parents turn to outside experts for advice, such as books, on how to raise teens. It’s not that parenting books are bad. Books can be a problem when parents use them to replace their own judge and skills. When personal parenting styles don’t match with what the books say, parents wind up more anxious and less confident with their own children.
Use books as a recommendation, and then put the book down and trust that you’ve learned what you need to learn. Get clear about what matters most to you and your family.
- Look at the big picture
Maybe you don’t like your teen’s new clothes or earrings. Or perhaps she/he didn’t play in a game as you know she/he could. But before you step in, look at the big picture.
If behaviors or decisions your teen make are not putting her/him at risk, give her/him the leeway to make age-appropriate decisions and learn from the consequences of her/his choices. Many parents don’t want their teens to grow up suffering from pain, disappointment, or failure. But protecting your child from the realities of life takes away valuable learning opportunities — before they’re out on their own.
Of course, you’ll still be there for guidance and comfort — you’re still the parent. But challenge yourself to step back and let your child know you’re there for them.
- be aware and take action in the big stuff
If you suspect your child is using alcohol or drugs, do not ignore it. Even if it’s “just” alcohol or marijuana — or even if it reminds you of your own youth — you must take action now, before it becomes a bigger problem.
Teenage is an important time for parents to stay involved. Parents might consider teen drinking a rite of passage because they drank when they were that age, but the risks are greater now.
Watch for warning signs in your teen’s behavior, appearance, academic performance, and friends. And remember, it’s not just illicit drugs that are abused now —prescription drugs and even cough medicines and household products are also in the mix.
- Find a balance between obedience and freedom
Some parents, sensing a loss of control over their teens’ behavior, crack down every time their child steps out of line. Others avoid all conflict for fear their teens will push them away. You don’t have to do either of those things. It’s about finding a balance between obedience and freedom.
If you put too much importance on obedience, you may be able to make your teen fall into line — but at what price? Teens raised in rigid environments miss out on the chance to develop problem-solving or leadership skills — because you’re making the decisions for them.
Yet too little discipline doesn’t help, either. Teens need clear structure and rules to live by as they start to explore the world outside. As their parent, it’s up to you to set your family’s core values and communicate them through your words and actions.
Remember, your influence runs deeper than you may think. Most teens say they want to spend more time with their parents. Keep making time for your child throughout the teen years. Even when it doesn’t show, you provide the solid ground they know they can always come home to.