When kids are small, their parents are the sun and the moon to them. So, how do we go from being the sun and the moon, to being the cricket and the mouse? When we talk to them as teenagers, all they seem to hear is chirp-chirp-chirp and squeak-squeak-squeak. If this sounds like your teenager, here are a few ways that you can form a meaningful relationship with them and get them to actually hear what you are saying.
Keep the lines of communication open. We say we will do this, but as soon as they come in past curfew or get into a fight at school, our understanding goes out the window. That is the last thing that a teenager wants to hear. A good parent is a good listener. You don’t know the score unless you’ve been watching the game. Hear them out and then talk it out. Being understood is important to teenagers above all else.
Set some ground rules. Teenagers desire no rules, more freedom, and no consequences. Boundaries have to be set in order to give your teenager a sense of responsibility. Disrespect and rudeness will not be tolerated no matter what they are going through. You are their parents and that position deserves respect. If they want to be trusted with more freedom, they have to obey the rules and suffer the consequences when they do not. There will be extenuating circumstances at times, but they need to take the responsible position then, too.
Ages twelve through twenty will not just disappear if we wish hard enough. You have to deal with it and so does your teen. All adults were once teenagers. Remember how you felt? Puberty has sent them into a tailspin. They have social pressures, educational pressures, and personal issues. In a word they are overwhelmed to the nth degree. Observing their life on a daily basis will help you to deal with them in a constructive way without passing judgment.
Be honest and truthful with your teen. If you are not, they will know. When they ask about sex or drugs or some other topic that you would rather not talk about, bite the bullet. Your child needs the truth and it’s better if they get it from you instead of their friends or television. If they ask specifically about your experiences, regale them with your tales. If not, then don’t volunteer. The conversation is about them not you.
Be consistent with your boundaries. Teenagers can be manipulative. They love playing both parents against each other. This works especially well if the parents are divorced and want to keep the kids happy. Don’t give in to puppy dog eyes or crocodile tears. If coming in late get them in trouble this week, then it should get them in trouble next week as well. From their point of view, everything in their life is changing day to day. Parents should be that unwavering force that they can count on to keep them grounded.
Don’t be critical. This week they may be wearing all black and listening to dark music. Next week, they may be all sweetness and light. Let them experiment within reason. Teens live in the here and now. The future is light years away for them. As a parent, it is our job to keep the future in mind, when we look at the present. That first boyfriend that made your skin crawl won’t be around in ten years (we hope!). The point is: If you don’t take it too seriously, neither will they. Give them a chance to find out who they are with your blessing.
Being a teenager is no picnic for anyone especially your teen. Communication goes a long way to getting your teen to open up to you even during the bad spells. Knowing that you are there for them will keep them coming home.
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