My Top 12 Tips for Raising Teens
Buckle up if your kids are in middle school and you’re struggling with all things puberty and adolescent development. The next six years are going to fly by. So here are my Top 12 Tips for Raising Teens.
Take time out each month to enjoy your time together now. While you can, seriously, carve it out in your calendar to really enjoy each other’s company as best you can.
(Hey, that one is a bonus tip!)
“Why?” you ask? Because these adorable little beings - the ones who are growing out of clothes and shoes like nobody’s business
But before you realize it, they suddenly become young adults. So first, that little cherub of yours will get a driver’s license. And then, in that final year of school, they get senior portraits taken, shop for prom, and reserve their cap and gown for commencement. And that last month is a freaking blur.
When your kids were little, your job may have felt a lot like a cruise director. Planning activities and excursions, responsible for tons of behind-the-scenes tasks related to safety and security, and generally making sure all of the passengers are enjoying themselves. Fun!
And as they get a little older, it may feel like you are more of a manager, planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the efficiency and effectiveness of your employees.
But here’s the challenging part: what your job must transition to in the last years of high school is a consultant, offering advice, wisdom, and expertise on how things work, from finance and budgeting to operations and strategy. Sometimes as a “fixer’ but always there to offer guidance to prevent problems and improve performance.
When they turn 18, they are adults; unless you control them via money, housing, or some other means, they make their own decisions. If you’re lucky, you might still have some influence as a consultant, especially if you established yourself as a reliable resource. But even then, they may just “take things under advisement” and do whatever they want. So how did you act at that age?
The following are my Top 12 Tips for Raising Teens
Acknowledge their growing independence
Assure and SHOW your love and support.
Inform them about the world – how it really is & fess up to how you wish it was, especially in the areas of:
Sex, Drugs, Alcohol
Acknowledge the inner struggle they will feel about growing up
Hormones flowing, bodies changing, brain developing. It’s a lot.
Acknowledge there will be times they will want to be treated like a grown up.
There may also be times that they want to be held like babies - and when they do, do that.
Validate how they feel
You may not remember what it was like to be a teen. Even if you do, know that their experiences are different than yours. Ask what they feel and listen.
Be okay with showing them who you are
Talk to them about your mistakes and lessons learned.
Share wins and lessons.
Share your feelings: good, bad, and ugly.
Apologize when it’s called for, and own your shit.
Build trust; it goes both ways.
Explain that you will work to establish and build trust by giving them a little more “slack on the umbilical cord.”
Enough to try out their independence, but not enough for them to get into trouble.
Help them develop critical thinking skills by asking them “what if” questions.
Show them respect and just listen (if this is tough for you, ask yourself if you like to be told what to do).
When they have shared, ask if they want “empathy’, “strategy” or “connection”?
Ask more questions. And then more questions - do not give them the answers right away. Help them think things through.
Help them see what it is like to BE a friend
and how to recognize when someone is NOT a friend.
That being friends with someone should feel good in their body and not make them feel anxious or unsafe.
If and when they do feel unsafe, what should they do? Who can they talk to?
Remind them about Safety
The thing many teens don’t understand about parenting is that anything can become a safety issue. And most parents want their kids to be safe. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about drugs, alcohol, sex, driving, curfew, etc. Set up a LifeLine with them - like a code they can text you to help them get out of a situation where they feel uncomfortable.
Establish yourself as a solid, safe, resource for them.
That you will find an answer if you don’t know.
That you will be honest.
Acknowledge your fear.
Promise to be aware that you will hold your own hurt, anger, or fear in favor of help.
Realize the above makes the tough conversations easier.
Love fully – show affection regardless of age
Little and big kids deserve hugs and kisses too. You know your kid best (some kids may not want hugs and kisses, that’s okay too.)
Start early and keep it going.
Explain how some peers may stop showing affection at puberty. It may come from them too but assure them, if you can, that you will be there whenever they need your hugs and kisses.
Consider how long you went between getting love and affection from your parents (if any) to receiving love and affection from a partner. When I thought of that I realized how big a gap that was I decided I will offer hugs as often as my kids want them.
Laugh often – as often as you can – and have fun together.
Find activities you enjoy doing together and make memories.
Before bed, the parent sets an alarm for the time teen must return by. The teen is responsible for returning home and turning the alarm off before it goes off and waking up parents (For those parents who can sleep, that is).
If all else fails, Curfew Clown.
There you have it: My Top 12 Tips for Raising Teens. Stay positive and be there for them. Let them know that you love them and will be there for them no matter what. Show them that you are willing to have difficult conversations and help them through the tough times. Remind them about safety and how to stay safe, and most importantly, laugh with them and have fun together.
Parenting a teen can be difficult. This list gives you some tips and ideas for how to help your teen grow into a responsible adult. I hope you find these helpful and can use them to establish or improve your relationship with your teen.
P.S. The Talk is not a one-time thing, it's ongoing. I know how awkward it can be - and how much parents dread it. If you need support, I have two ways to help you right now:
1. Read my book - "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk" - This is not a book for you to read with your kids or give to them to read. It’s a book for you… the parent or guardian, to get comfortable talking to your kids so you can raise emotionally mature adults.
2. Download the "Conversation Starters" Guide ($7) - This Guide helps you broach the difficult subjects related to dating, love, relationships, and sexuality with your children. The book is filled with open-ended questions that can start a dialogue and gives you the tools you need to be able to answer your children's questions.
It is SO important to talk to your teen about sexuality because they need to understand their bodies and what is happening in interpersonal relationships and so on for when they eventually become sexually active.