It remains a mystery to me that being a mom can be the most challenging yet rewarding job I’ve ever had. As my teens approach the line to adulthood, I sometimes try to figure out which phase of their childhood was the most difficult for me as a mother. Mommying during their years as infants and toddlers was tough, but I think those years come in a close second to the pesky pre-teen years. Wait, who am I kidding? I have had several mini heart attacks as they’ve dealt with their changing bodies, learning to drive, going places with friends unchaperoned. You know, those things that accompany the teenage years.
Now that I think about it, I’m sure that the teenage years have been the most challenging years for me as a mother. But, I’m surviving them. And as scary as I’ve made the teenage years sound, I’m enjoying seeing my kids grow up and become young adults. Many moms worry about positively parenting their teens, and rightfully so, because it can be a daunting process. I want to share with you nine tips that have made it possible for me to not only survive, but enjoy being the mother of two teenagers.
- Show your love. When your child becomes a teenager, sometimes they might not reciprocate your affection, but they still want it. Show them your love. Continue giving them those hugs and kisses.
- Be a parent and a friend. Teenagers crave the surety that their parents will listen to them and understand them. If you are focused only on being a parent, your teen may find peace in sharing their problems with their friends instead of with you. I firmly believe that it is possible to be your child’s parent and friend.
- Encourage communication. Make time for your teen. No matter how busy you or your teenager may be during the day, they will appreciate you taking some time to chat with them. Encourage communication by hanging out with your teen and occasionally doing things that they like doing. One of the things that I attribute my family’s closeness to is communication.
- Eat meals together. I know it’s way easier said than done, but try to practice this as often as you can. Time at the table gives an excellent opportunity for everyone to share highlights from their day. (In fact, eating together is another one of the things that I attribute my family’s closeness to.) As your teen is sharing about the day, listen and notice if he or she is facing any problems or celebrating any successes. Share your problems (appropriate ones) and successes with them, too. It helps to humanize you to your teenager, who sometimes may think you’re really from Mars.
- Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Talk to your teen about their friends. Get to know them better so you can figure out if they are a positive or negative influence on your kid. Also, try to meet their friends’ parents if you can.
- Set the three “W” rule. I use the three “W” rule when my teens are going out without my husband or me. It works well for us. Whenever the kids are going somewhere unaccompanied by an adult, they should tell you where they are going, who they are going with, and when they plan on being back. (My kids know if they are not back home by the agreed upon when, frantic mom automatically takes over rational mom.)
- Set rules and consequences. Communicate acceptable and unacceptable behavior with your teens. Avoid ultimatums, but rather be clear about limitations. Be reasonable and flexible with the rules you set, and allow them to have a voice in setting the consequences. We have found that their consequences are usually way stricter than ours.
- Model adult behavior during a conflict. You should act swiftly if something unacceptable happens. However, don’t lose your calm while confronting your teen. Focus on tending to the problem rather than yelling at each other.
- Support your teen. Encourage your teenager to participate in extracurricular activities. Help them find a job if they want to be productive in their free time. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t push your kid into independence if they are not ready. It’s definitely a process that you should approach slowly and thoughtfully.
The bottom line is that your children need you at all times. In the earlier stages of life, they show it. As they enter the teenage years, they might think it’s “uncool” to rely on parents. However, you should figure out their emotional needs through effective communication. It will make the teenage years much more bearable for all.