Every parent wants their teenagers to grow up to be healthy, happy, and productive adults. In these critical years when they are learning to become independent, it can be difficult to know how to help them achieve their goals and, resist the urge to give into peer pressure that can cause them to make bad choices that can affect the rest of their lives.
Taking risks, and exploring different behaviors is part of the process of becoming a unique individual within society. We must be careful to help our teenagers through this process with as much love and support as possible, without stifling their natural ability to grow into the person they choose to be. Here are 7 rules that may help you.
1.Remind yourself that you do not own your child, but you are raising your child.
Once a child reaches adolescence, it is time to loosen the reigns, and stop ordering them around. Begin offering them multiple options, and asking for their preferences. It is also a good idea, to let them have a little privacy when it comes to their personal affairs. Let your child know that you are always there to lend a non-judgmental ear if they wish to talk about things, but it won’t help them too much if they feel as those they are always coming home to be pop-quizzed about their lives. If they do feel like sharing with you, avoid the urge to tell them what to do about their problems. Instead, ask them what their plans are, and if they would like your advice, before giving it. This way you won’t deter them from sharing their problems with you in the future.
2.Don’t be afraid to change with your child.
Being open to letting yourself grow with your child, will help show them that positive changes are possible. If you have a bad habit that you don’t want your teenager to follow, let them know that it is something you are working on, and make a real effort to change. Doing this will make them more likely to make healthy changes in their own lives as well, and they will be more likely to accept your love and support as they make their effort. This can create a bond between you, and you will be more likely to enjoy each others company when they are adults.
3.Try not to over protect them.
As I said before, taking risks, and exploring new things is a part of the natural growing process. As much as we may hate to see it, we must let our teenagers make a few mistakes, and help them pick up the pieces. Reduce limits on their activities as they get older, and try not to limit their interests too much. If you limit what they watch on television, or listen to on their i-pod, chances are, they will see or hear those things when they are away from home. It is best to respectfully offer your opinion on these things, rather than forbidding them. If they respect your opinion, they may make the decision to forbid it for themselves, which will free you from the role of being the “bad guy”.
4.Let your teenager have their own dreams.
We all dream of our child becoming super successful, or taking over the family business, but that may not be what your teenager desires at all. Avoid sharing your goals for them, and ask them to share their own. Let them know that you love them for who they are, not what they may become. Doing this will help them stay motivated on their own path.
5.Be vulnerable and honest.
They may never admit it, but your teenager needs to hear you say things like, “I love you,” and “I miss you.” Don’t be afraid to express your feelings for them. Even if they don’t appreciate it now, they will appreciate it later. You may want to wait until you teen is away from their peers to do this, but a few simple words expressing your love for them can go a long way.
6.Seek personal growth.
I’m not really talking about bad habits here. I’m talking about making changes to be a better overall person. It is never too late to solve a problem, learn a new skill, make a new major purchase, or strive for better employment. Discuss the changes you would like to make in your life with your teenager, and make them aware of the process you will go through. Doing this will help them do the same as adults, and can greatly broaden their horizons.
7.Maintain your own hobbies and relationships with other adults.
Teenagers learn best through example, so it is a good idea to make sure that you don’t lose sight of your own interests, and relationships. If your teenager doesn’t share your interest, it is okay. Remember that your life doesn’t end when you have a child. Maintain healthy relationships between your friends and family, and it will be easier for your teen to do the same.
All of these rules have a common thread. The most important thing to remember when you are raising a teen, is that you must communicate ideas with them. Whether they are your ideas or theirs, they are equally important, and should be shared with love, and respect. Listening to your teen may not always be easy, but it is essential to do it, if you want to have a long-lasting relationship built on love and trust. So pull up a chair, and ask your teen about their day. You will be glad you did in the long run.
Scott m. Shannon, M.D.
Please Don’t Label My Child.