This is the final post in our "Ages and Stages" series.
I woke up in a cold sweat.
I could still see the dream. There they were. My two girls, now five and seven, fully developed in all of their teenage glory, getting in a car to drive away from me. When I woke up I could still feel the weight of it on my chest.
For decades the teenage years have been foreshadowed with fear and negativity. What if it doesn’t need to be this way? Worse yet, what if the catastrophizing and siphoning of negative energy into this period of development could actually foster a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Based on the enormity of research on the power of positive thought, it bears consideration that we re-frame our thoughts around the teen years. Adolescence is an inevitability parents can’t escape. Instead of running from it, let’s shake hands with it, and make a plan to confidently lead our children through these pivotal years, while also attempting to retain our own sanity.
A fantastic place to start is with a focus on what we can do as parents to encourage the well-being of our child throughout the teenage years.
If you haven’t figured out the harsh reality that we aren’t capable of controlling another human being yet, you soon will. Luckily, there is, in fact, something of fundamental importance we can control with our teen: the emphasis and effort we put into our relationship with them.
Many parents quickly find that punishments and control tactics that may have worked previously are no longer effective at this age. So, how do we get our teens to listen and respect our authority?
Retire the iron fist and let a trusting relationship based on love and respect do the talking. Research has consistently found that positive child-parent relationships are associated with better academic, social, and emotional and behavioral outcomes. Here are some ways parents can foster a close connection with their teen.
In order to cope with the emotional ups and downs of having a teenager (both theirs and yours), self-care is a must. Self-care is one of those topics that has become a bit cliche, and possibly a bit abstract. Essentially, we must be mindful and aware of what’s going on within ourselves in order to be in a place where we can be responsive to our teens as opposed to reactive. (And let’s be honest, they’ll give us plenty of chances to react). Your child needs you to model self-control and emotional regulation now more than ever.
Your child’s teen years are formative in their exploration of their own identity and how they fit into the world around them. They are figuring out their gifts and talents, as well as what challenges them.
Not surprisingly, this is a common area for parents to become over-invested, given our own hopes and fears (and biases) for our child. What better way to encourage your child’s self exploration and discovery than pursue your own interests alongside them?
Teens have a massive amount of tasks to master in order to be prepared to launch out on their own – the most primary of these being tasks to prepare them to provide for their own basic needs, such as self-grooming and making choices about sleeping and eating. Now is a great time to sit back, and let your teen assume more responsibility.
Let’s be real. Parenting a teen will no doubt present many unique challenges and emotional hurdles. Parents still play a major role in their teens lives and will continue providing consistent guidance and limits for their child. But let’s not make this time any harder than we need to.
Be intentional about embracing these years of extraordinary cognitive, emotional, and physical development and try to find the moments of zen within.