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Parenting Teens

Parenting Teens

The teenage years can be a nightmare for many parents, even harder if you are parenting alone and have no-one to share the feelings of frustratration and powerlessness with.

However, the teen years really don't have to be too painful or unnerving, neither do they even have to happen that way. In fact, what causes the most angst in parents at this time is their feeling of losing control.

The teen that parents could easily direct and guide not many months ago, now seems a law unto him/herself, perhaps rebelling at everything, being uncommunicative, perhaps experimenting with drink or drugs and just generally uncooperative and resentful.

This is a time when parents can often do nothing right in the eyes of the teen and can be at a loss as to how they should manage the situation. However, surviving those troublesome teen years, and even enjoying them, can be done quite easily but takes a few tips:

1. Understanding

What you as a parent need to appreciate is that the teenage years are not very good for teens. They are changing from child to adult, which they can clearly see by the physical changes in their bodies; changes that they (especially girls) do not understand themselves, yet are likely to be too scared and embarrassed to ask for help.

They will gradually begin to feel self-conscious because a lot of things that might have been shielded from them, or they didn't really care about, would now be making a lot of sense, like sex, masturbation, periods and breasts. A teen would not feel comfortable discussing any of that with their parent at the beginning, especially if they were not really communicating well in the first place.

Showing understanding and empathy, without being too intrusive and controlling, will foster a much better atmosphere and reduce the anxiety and fear in your teen. That is so important because the teen years are the ones where teens are not yet adults but are expected to act like them, or they can be very mature yet their parents are still treating them as little children - a rather schizophrenic time all round!

This is a vulnerable time for your teen and an anxious time for you. However, if you try to be less controlling, more understanding and more empathetic, while nurturing your teen's independence, it will make you feel better too.

2. Space

Whatever you do, give your teen some space! If they don't wish to talk, that is their right. Don't continuously watch them. Don't try to prise out every secret they might have. It's natural to have silly secrets at that age. It makes them feel more grown-up.

Don't be suspicious of their every move. Don't go on about their rooms and don't try to dictate too much. Teens are in transition, crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood. Some will make it across the bridge much quicker (the more mature, confident ones) while some will take a while longer and need your help. Backing off, using your instinct and respecting their space will help you through that period too, and you'll do it best with the next tip.

3. Trust and Respect

If you have taught your teen your values, morals and acceptable ways of behaving, then all you need to do is to trust them to make their decisions. They will usually make the ones that align with your family's values unless they were too controlled or repressed in their own behaviour. When you can't see them, they are making decisions every minute of the day for their own benefit.

Trust them to make those decisions when they are around you too and respect those decisions, even if they are not what you would wish. You cannot protect them from everything in the world. They have to learn from their own mistakes. Above all, show them that trust and respect them to do the right thing; that they are worth it and you are with them all the way. They will respect your guidance in turn and that period won't feel so fraught or problematic for you.

4. Communication

This is never easy during the teen years because, being unsure of themselves and very sensitive at this stage, they are likely to be more aggressive than they intend, more rebellious, more introspective and not very co-operative, especially if they feel you are being too intrusive.

Just being there for them, discussing their moods, fears, events of their day and simply being supportive will work wonders too for your peace of mind, sense of value and reassurance. Parents and their teens do not have to actually talk to communicate. Just being sensitive to their needs and be available for when they desire that conversation. It will help them a great deal.

Please accept too that the teen years is a time when teens communicate with each other rather than their parents because they are all in the same boat having the same experiences and comforting each other.

They will not be telling parents too much because many will feel a stronger need to belong to their friendship groups than just staying in their parents' orbit. This is the time when parents are likely to change into bankers, taxi cabs and laundrettes! To expect anything else would be highly unreasonable in the eyes of the teen! Try to appreciate that and it will make your life much easier!

5. Sharing

Try to share their activities, their music, their interests, their social networking. By sharing what they like, especially when they actually offer to involve you, these things are likely to happen:

  1. You validate what they are doing and boost their confidence and esteem at the same time.
  2. You will also know what they are doing and who their friends are.
  3. You will not be criticising everything they are doing or finding fault with their activities, which erodes their self esteem
  4. You will be reinforcing them in their decisions and whom they wish to be, which makes for a much better atmosphere.

By sharing as much as you can without imposing yourself on their world, you are respecting their choices while giving them the confidence to enjoy them even more. In that way, your teen is likely to feel less fearful and anxious and you are likely to feel less insecure about them. These tips will not only help you to survive the teen years but they might even help you to enjoy them as well!

If you are struggling with your teen, talk with others in forums such as Mumsnet, DadInfo and The Parent Connection.

Have a read about the benefits of doing a Parenting Programme or further articles on Teenagers.

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