How to be a fantastic parent to your teenager...
Dear Disappointed/Overwhelmed/ Angry/Frustrated Parent of a Teenager,
Would you like to know the secret(s) to enjoying your kids through their adolescence? Would you like to get along with your son or daughter while they go from puberty to independence?
Because they sure need you right now.
I am going to give you the answer to this because I have been living it out for the past decade and I see and work with so many parents who are stressed out, anxious, and at their wits end...I want to share with you how I truly enjoy guiding kids through adolescence in the hopes it will inspire you to work toward the same end.
First and foremost, there are a few things you will need to do differently. By that I mean you'll need to do them in a different way than your parents did while raising you. Because you see, the way our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents parented does not work well with kids today.
To evolve your parenting into what will give you the healthiest, happiest outcome, you will need to release some baggage that isn't serving you or your child and, at this point (whether you want to believe it or not) is the main reason you are white knuckling it through this decade+ of your child's development.
Looking back at your childhood is a KEY step to shifting any challenges you face with your teenager right now.
In addition to recognizing the need to parent differently during the teen years, here are a few of the other things I do to really enjoy my kids (who, at this point, are middle school/high school/college/young adult career/and 30-something married):
- STOP LISTENING to the messages our culture tells parents, directly and subliminally, about what our kids "should" and "shouldn't" be doing/accomplishing/checking off in order for them to become "successful" adults. Most of it is b.s. We [parents] get as many messages and pressure tactics from the media, school, neighbors (the ones we're trying to keep up with), and well-intentioned family members as our kids do! The anxiety this stirs up inside of parents that their kid isn't "measuring up" is hurting family life because the parent/child relationship is being built upon our kids having to perform for love and acceptance. Sure, we say we love them unconditionally, but they know (because they can feel it inside of themselves) that if they don't come through in whatever way we've decided is so important they won't be good enough. This is where the feeling of unworthiness is born. Our kids are working at living out our agenda for them, trying to meet our expectations, instead of doing what they came into the world to work through...to evolve into the very best version of themselves. Which, quite frankly, may look nothing like you think it should look.
- START LISTENING to your child, it's amazing how much brutal honesty comes from their mouths and their behavior. This isn't about whipping them into shape...my God, if your child is misbehaving in your eyes (anger issues, anxiety, stressed out, drinking/drugging, screwing around at age 13/14/15) this is a CALL FOR HELP, not a slap in your face. Don't waste time trying to track their every text and movement...start thinking about, and talking with them about, what's going on for them and what is behind their choice to self-medicate or find love and affection in ways that will limit their potential. You've got to do this in a way that let's them know you are on their side and not coming from trying to control or power over them. And please, if you are struggling to gain ground, seek professional help!
- DISAPPOINTMENT DOES NOT BELONG ANYWHERE IN PARENTING. I've thought about this for a long time and I truly believe being disappointed in your son or daughter for any reason, whether you say it directly to them or they can just feel it coming through your energy, is one of the worst things a parent can do because it shames the child and pulls them away from their highest intentions. There is NOTHING the kids I birthed could ever say or do that would cause me to feel disappointed. They are NOT here to please me. I called them into the world and their only "job" is to experience life while reflecting back to me the opportunity to evolve myself in that process.
- BE VULNERABLE. Let your kids know when you've messed up, they need to know you're human. Go ahead and share that the topic you want to discuss with them makes you feel uncomfortable. The more honest you can be with them the more honest they will feel they can be with you.
- LAUGH A LITTLE! A sense of humor will go far with teens. Instead of lecturing them to death (and it falling on deaf ears) be willing to make a point in a playful way:
- YOU, YOU, YOU...sometimes it's all about you. I can't stress this enough. When I started to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually my relationship with my kids grew stronger. CHOOSE to do this without any guilt. I know it's cliche, but think about the cabin pressure mask on a plane story...you literally cannot give others what you don't have. For me this practice includes running several times a week, daily meditation, feeding my mind with positive books/t.v. programming/podcasts. One of my current favorite podcasts is called What Were You Thinking?! It's a FANTASTIC look at adolescents and why they make the choices they do.
- NOT YOU, NOT YOU, NOT YOU...distance yourself from taking what your teen says too seriously. Parents often take their kids angry words too much to heart. If you are going to have a mutually respectful relationship it's gotta start with you. Building (or keeping) a connected relationship with your teenager is more important than their behavior being exactly what you need it to be.
And finally, my last bit of sharing because this is truly what I do with our kids: Detach from the outcome. Work on building a connection with them so they feel like they can come to you and you would never judge them. There are some very diverse beliefs about politics, religion, and lifestyle choices among our group of seven...I embrace every single one of them.
If I can help or support you on your parenting journey in any way, please reach out.
Founder, Real Life Parent Guide