Your children have made it to the teen years. They no longer need you to feed them, brush their hair, dress them, and provide for their every physical need. You can now eat an entire meal uninterrupted, have time to read a book, watch a television show for grown ups, and even enjoy a bubble bath alone. Congratulations, Mom! You’ve survived the preschool and elementary years.
I know you’re physically exhausted from these first 10-12 years, but I need to break something to you. While the teen years are less labor intensive, they can be mentally draining for a parent. This is not the time to pull back and become uninvolved in your child’s life. No, quite the opposite is true.
Sandwiched between childhood and adulthood, lie the hormonal and sometimes turbulent teen years. The main goal of the teen years is to prepare your child for adulthood. Keep this end goal in mind.
It can be difficult to find the balance between helping your teen grow and holding them back. There will be times they act like a five year old, and other times they make mature decisions. Here’s a list of 10 things teenagers need most from parents to help them develop into happy, healthy, responsible adults.
10 Things Teenagers Need Most From Parents
Show Interest in Their Interests
As a parent, you should be genuinely interested in things important to your teen. You don’t have to be an expert at every interest or hobby, just show interest and participate as much as you can. If all your teen wants to do is play video games, then play with him. Ask questions about the game. Who is his favorite character? What is it about the game that he likes so much? If your teen is on her phone all the time, ask about her favorite apps. What apps would she recommend for you? If your teen is into fitness, train with them. Lift weights together, run or bike together. If they are more advanced than you, ask them to train you. No matter what your teen is doing, find some way to connect with them in at least one thing they love.
Encourage and Compliment Them
Your teen needs to hear more than negative words from you. There will be plenty of times to correct or punish, but seek out the good and compliment your teen regularly. Were all of his homework assignments turned in on time this week? Did she remember to set her alarm and get up on time? Did he go out of his way to help a friend? Saying things like “that was a mature decision” or “you did the right thing” can greatly encourage your teen. Look for opportunities to compliment, and do it often.
Teens can be very emotional. Notice when they are sad, angry, hurt, or just quiet. Ask questions to find out what is bothering them. When they open up to you, identify the emotion they are feeling, and think back to a time you felt the same emotion. Share a situation you had to deal with, and be real with your teen. Don’t just share your successes, but tell them about times you messed up and the consequences of your choices. Advice based on emotion and real life experiences will help your teen identify with you and connect with you.
Spend Time With Them
Create traditions with your teen by planning regularly scheduled events you both look forward to. You could go on an annual camping trip, get pedicures every 2-3 weeks, Friday night board-games, Sunday lunch at a restaurant, or a monthly family movie night. Also include spontaneous outings like a weekend or overnight trip, a matinee movie, a concert, or a shopping excursion. Look for and create opportunities to spend time together.
Ask About Their Future Plans
Instead of telling them to make long term plans, ask them. Just straight up ask, “What are your plans for this summer?” “What kind of job will you be looking for when you graduate?” “What colleges are you thinking about applying to?” Try to make the questions open-ended giving them plenty of room to elaborate. If you ask a yes/no question, that’s probably the only answer you’ll get.
Give Them Some Independence
Loosen the reigns a little and give your teen some freedom to manage their time without your interference. Set their bedtime a little later, extend their curfew by an hour, or maybe even give them money to shop for clothes without you. Have a conversation with your teen about independence, responsibility, and trust. Make sure they understand the amount of independence you grant them is tied directly to the amount of responsibility they can handle. If they break your trust or if their grades suffer, some of that independence will be taken away. This process can be sort of a tug-of-war during the teen years, but these are not skills learned without practice.
Be The Hangout House
Encourage your teens to have friends over regularly. If they don’t ask to have friends over, then you suggest it to them! Offer to set up a game or movie night. Order pizza, make popcorn, have plenty of snacks, and give them a safe place to hang out. Once their friends arrive, be sure to introduce yourself and welcome each one. Make yourself available to them and check on them often, but don’t hover around them constantly.
Stock the Kitchen With Food
Teens are always hungry. They are constantly on the go and full of energy, so they need a lot of fuel. The old adage “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” applies to teens, too! It’s important to keep plenty of snacks available. Designate an area in your refrigerator, pantry or a kitchen cabinet to store snacks your teen can have anytime. Keep it stocked with a variety of foods and replenish it often. This gives you some control over the snacks your teen has access to and allows them some freedom in choosing what to eat as well.
Brag About Them
Let the world know you’re proud of your teen! When you attend a recital, sporting event, performance, speech, or whatever your teen participates in, snap a pic and post it up to social media. They may seem a little embarrassed at first, but your teen needs to know you are so proud of them that you want to share their accomplishments with the world. Be on the same social media platforms your kids are on, and comment on things they post. Don’t like or comment on everything, but do let them know when they post something you’re proud of.
Say “I Love You”
Don’t let these three important words go unsaid. Don’t assume your teen knows you love them. Tell them regularly and accompany the words with a hug. If this isn’t something you’ve practiced before it may seem awkward at first, but make it a point to say “I love you” to your teen. No matter how much you provide for them, participate in their lives, brag about them, or feed them, nothing can substitute or impact as much telling them you love them on a regular basis.
Your child will naturally pull away from you during the teen years. It’s part of growing up. However, if you practice these 10 Things Teenagers Need Most From Parents regularly it will help ensure a close relationship to the adult they are becoming. You can’t stop it, nor would you want to. With your help, encouragement, and involvement your teen is going to be an amazing grown up one day!
Yes, the years pass quickly and they grow up fast, but parenting is never done.
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