Have you ever wondered how and why your teen turned into an alien or a monster? When you are living with a teenager this is the thought that often crosses our minds. How come reading all those parenting teenager books was pretty useless? You are confronted with a teenage son or daughter who rarely pulls out their headphones to even listen to you, never mind talk to you!
Here are some of the things which drive you mad every day when living with a teenager
- Unbelievably messy bedroom
- You are constantly told that “You just don’t understand”
- Bedtime routines are a thing of the past and most parents’ teenagers sleep till midday at weekends
- You cannot go into their room at all or in any circumstances – it’s a no go area
- You get the eye roll treatment a few times a day
- You never really sleep until she or she comes home, safe and sound, you hope
- The fridge is empty (you did the shopping yesterday!) and food you wanted to use has disappeared.
Help For Living With A Teenager
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Most parents know all about the hormonal changes and how this can derail any nice kid. These give way to powerful emotions. That is why teens have all this anger, sadness, anxiety, and discontent. That is why teenage boys are going to drive recklessly or get drunk. It is just one way they can deal with these emotions. The missing positive role male model is worrying as many families are fatherless.
The big challenge for parents and any family here is how to help the teenager start using techniques for managing these emotions. One startling poll result shows that depression is the top fear for many parents and teens.
The other problem is that the negative male stereotyping is reinforced through peer pressure. The rape culture among boys and slut shaming that girls may have to endure is still widespread. You can read about the dangers of sexual harassment online here in this post on the blog.
How parents make sure that the teenager is aware of issues:-
- Encourage them to be more self aware of what havoc and mayhem their reaction is causing.
- Shouting and yelling is a kid’s reaction – teens may feel that is babyish reaction – it is!
- Ask them to think about why they are angry
- Help them with self-control – think before they act is always sound advice. Think about different ways of reacting and their consequences.
- Tell them that they can get rid of anger just by doing something else – exercising, listening to music, preparing food, drawing or even doing some breathing exercises.
- Encourage them to be more aware of their developing personality and the changes (physical, emotional and biological) going on in their bodies. This can become a big deal with parents and that usually means a breakdown in communication.
Teens behind closed doors
Living with a teenager will always raise the privacy issue. The teens’ right to it is closely guarded just like yours and mine are. Obsession with tidiness and cleanliness is no excuse to invade a teen’s privacy. Certain rules and boundaries have to be fixed. With regard to dirty washing, just tell them that unless their clothes are in the laundry basket, then they are not washed. A friend of mine tried that with her teen daughter and it is no longer an issue as she ran out of clean underwear! Watch the video here to get a better idea of some of the challenges and the way you can take the necessary action.
Connecting with teens
Banging doors, imposing curfews and rules usually lead to a complete lack of communication. This is why teenage advice for parents is a top search term on the Internet . What we want to do in this war torn environment, is to try and open up, offer support and talk. I know it is difficult when they are attached to a smartphone and headphones. Here are some ideas to try and spend time with them. Even if it is only going out shopping or picking them up from school, it can provide a way to understand and help them make decisions. Here are some dos and don’ts you can try when your teen actually fesses up and talks about frustrating setbacks and disappointments:-
Don’t react and offer practical advice when living with a teenager – this is knee-jerk reaction
Don’t overreact as this will send the message that as a parent you just don’t want to hear all this negative stuff
Don’t dismiss the situation or their reaction. Take it on board.
DO say :- “I get it” – those 3 words are worth a whole chapter in one of those parenting teenager books!
DO empathize and try to walk the talk when you have said “I get it”. Put yourself their shoes and think back to what you went through in your teenage years.
There are alarming figures about youth suicide in Australia and New Zealand. It is high time that the family, schools and the community were more actively and positively involved.
Teenagers and mental illness
Many parents are concerned that there may be deeper issues such as depression or borderline personality when they fail to make progress and get through to their teens. There may be complications due to conditions like ADHD.
Alarm bells start to ring when you notice that all the hostility, poor school grades, anger, changes in eating, lack of friends and so on are actually becoming permanent. Any teenager is going to go through some or all of the above symptoms but they tend to come and go. It is when you start to notice that these are becoming permanent fixtures, then you may want to get professional help, You cannot deal with this on your own.
Living with a teenager means talking about sex and drugs
Dr. Richard Lerner is a director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He has made a very interesting remark:-
“The message we give teenagers is that they’re only ‘good’ if they’re not doing ‘bad’ things, such as doing drugs, hanging around with the wrong crowd, or having sex,” Lerner says.
Sex, drugs and alcohol have to be talked about. The earlier the better too. These thing always or often come up in the conversation so there is no need to have that special talk.
Be prepared to talk about anything and everything :-
- Consensual sex
- Your views on sex (religious or not)
- Gender issues and homosexuality
- Date rape
- Slut shaming
- Rape culture
- Alcohol and its risks when consensus is not sought or given
- Safer sex
- Drugs and the law
- Alcohol, drunk driving and the law
Encourage some discussion about makes a healthy sex relationship if you favor it or state the reasons why you are against pre-marital sex. It may be for religious reasons or otherwise but at least you have made your views clear. Living with a teenager also means taking a stance, no matter how difficult that may be.
Your hope is that your teen will become sexually responsible as she or he grows up. If you are open and honest, you can never blame yourself when an unwanted pregnancy or rape charge upsets your domestic peace.
Remember , if you do not know where to start, this NHS Choices has an excellent guide on what to say.
Photo courtesy of Flickr:- https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilest/27179677270/