help! there's a teen in my house!
Friend of Ricki Carolyn West: When I was in high school, the last thing I wanted to do was listen to my parents. Like most teenagers, I knew it all and my opinion was the only one that mattered. It's no different now, teens are still fed all kinds of demands related to behavior, grades, and expectations -- what do do and what not to do. Is there any wonder why most teens rebel?
But there's a fine line between guiding a child and stifling goals and creativity. From their perspective, they are just trying to please you, often wondering why everyone thinks their ideas are so off the mark. So at some point they just close down and stop listening. It’s at that precise moment when most parents throw up their hands and proclaim, “I’m done. There’s nothing more I can do.” And at the very moment when you are giving up, your child starts wondering why you don’t care anymore. It’s a vicious cycle of anger and misunderstanding.
When I found myself the mother to three daughters, I knew I had a wild and crazy ride ahead of me and made a conscious decision early on to try to create the kind of relationship with my children I didn’t see very often when I was growing up. I envied friends with teens who actually shared their lives with them. I wanted to be the kind of mother my girls would come running to with news of a new boyfriend, a bully at school, or a friend offering drugs. I wanted to be that safe harbor where there was caring, sharing and no judging.
Are You Talking?
Most parents today do want to be involved in their children’s lives in more ways than just providing food, shelter and transportation. For them, psychotherapist, Stacy Kaiser, actually coined the term, “Modern Parenting” -- the idea of finding balance between being a parent and having a close relationship without being seen as a "friend."
Stacy Kaiser's Tips for Modern Parenting
• Develop similar interests. Find TV shows or activities that you can share with your teen. Spending time together doing what you both enjoy will foster conversation. When you find a common interest to discuss, it can easily segue into other more serious topics.
• Timing is everything. Find the right moment when your teen is relaxed -- not stressed about homework or social drama or in the middle of doing something. A casual drive in the car tends to make kids more open to talking.
• Share your own feelings. It isn’t a good idea to give too much of your own personal TMI, but talking about your own day or how you handled trouble with a boss might help them see you as more than a parent, but a person who also has hardships and disappointments (just like they do).
Are you Listening?
Talking is a great start, but no amount of talking to your kids will actually get them to trust and confide in you if you don’t take the time to really listen. Listening is often the hardest part of being a parent. We tend to hear them while we're multitasking, cooking dinner or paying bills. But to develop a real bond with kids, there needs to be a focus on making listening a priority.
• Eye Contact. When teens finally decide to share, give your undivided attention. Stop what you are doing and focus on what they are saying. Let them know you are really hearing them.
• Value their opinion -- really. Ask a teen for advice on an outfit or a new paint color for your home and you'd be surprised how things shift. Don’t just dismiss them if you don't share the same ideas, actually try to implement a few you hadn't thought of.
• Include teens in planning the family vacation or choosing which restaurant to go to. When teens are involved in the decision-making, they're more likely to participate and enjoy.
Remember, separation during the teen years is perfectly normal. Children need to start making their own decisions and part of that means they turn to friends more than family. Not every decision they make will necessarily be the one you might have made, but it's important to raise kids to make their own choices in life? Talking, listening and guiding now while they still need you will ensure they keep coming back for years to come, looking for your words of wisdom as they face their own children's teenage years.
Carolyn West, also known as “TemysMom” in social media circles, is the Mom of three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 7. Besides writing for several blogs regarding tween issues, her personal blog, This Talk Ain’t Cheap, is where she writes about family and social issues, shares recipes and design tips, and reviews books and products. Connect with Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.