Teens have a lot on their minds as they head back to school. Will they have friends? Will they be successful in their academics? Are they safe in their school? Parents are no exception. How do I stay connected with my teen? How much time is enough time to give them? How can I help them achieve their goals? Will they be safe?
There is nothing like parenting a teen – the emotional stress, their friends, the activities – and it seems impossible to keep up with it all, especially if you’re a working parent with multiple children. However, the teenage years can be the most rewarding and thought-provoking times for you and your teen. The relationship you develop with your teen will impact who they befriend in college, who they date or marry, and what career choices they make.
It’s tough coming home from work and asking your teen about their day (only to get mumbling or a grunt). Their life is full of activities so sometimes you only see them in the evenings. Teens don’t always share how they feel inside, but they have many fears and stressors they keep inside; fears of being inadequate or disappointing to their parents are often at the forefront. Many parents step away from their children during their teen years. They hug them less and start to disconnect as the teen demands more independence and privacy. Your teen does need privacy, but they need you, too. Below are suggestions that can keep your teen grounded and reinforce security and confidence (even when they don’t seem to be listening):
- Set firm boundaries with the phone, internet, and other electronics. Your teen needs you to limit their phones and computer use because they can’t. They will be angry and fight you – do it anyway.
- Give them a private space. Don’t barge into their room to make demands. Respect begins at home; knock on their door and tell them you need to talk. They may say “go away.” Don’t.
- Don’t yell at your teen. All children have difficulty with parental yelling, but teens react hormonally and passionately. When you yell, they automatically feel badly about themselves. Stay calm and speak firmly without raising your voice.
- If you plan an outing with your teen, don’t turn it into a lecture. If you invite your teen for a coffee or walk, let them be quiet with you. Teens don’t need to talk to feel close; sometimes your presence connects them.
- Tell your teen you love them even when they mess up. When you’re afraid and you react by insulting or yelling at your teen, they will withdraw or become combative. It’s much better to say, “The reason I am freaking out is because I am afraid of losing you or you getting hurt.” Explain your fear by validating your love.
- Stop giving your teen material stuff! Teens know they should work for what they get. When parents continually give them stuff, teens question if their parents are using “stuff” as a currency for spending time together. Give your teen your presence.
No matter how effective parents are with raising teens, there are times when a teen needs additional support. If you are worried about your teen’s feelings, mood, or behavior, the best action you can take is to get them a counselor, mentor, or someone other than you they can talk to. It’s not an easy job to raise a teen; however, teens add a perspective, energy, and passion to the family that will be missed when they are grown. Enjoy and embrace the back to school challenges with your teen.