Just like children go through phases in their lives, parents experience their own chapters of parenting. The ‘tween and teen years of parenting can be especially tricky – ask any parent who’s been there.
School problems, mood swings, friendship challenges, and stubborn or outright disrespectful behavior by ‘tweens and teens toward their family members are just a few of the issues parents will likely face as they watch their babies grow into young adults.
Here are some tips for those hard times, provided by someone who’s been there (Dr. B has middle-schoolers of her own!):
- Don’t leave things open to interpretation, such as your expectations regarding school work, behavior toward family members, activities with friends, sex, drug use, smoking, curfews, etc.
- Talk, talk, talk – and listen intently. Communication can be a challenge. But your kids need to know that you care about their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Make yourself available. Consider trying different modalities, like texting, if your child can’t seem to open up in person, and you know something is happening.
- Plan fun activities with your teen. Spending special time together will help keep your relationship strong. If you have more than one child, do your best to set aside time for one-on-one, parent-child activities at least once a week. This may encourage more open communication.
- Tell your child every day how much you love them, even if their behavior is driving you crazy. It’s easy for teens to feel poorly supported when their parents are grouchy with them.
- Eat together. Many show that families who eat together four or more times per week have lower rates of teen problems, Such as drinking, drug use, and school failure.
- Take a break from technology. Everyone, including parents, needs to follow house rules regarding screen time and time spent in cyberspace. Designate a part of the day when everyone abandons their smart phones, computers and TV shows to engage in family time.
- Monitor their Internet use – cyberspace can be a dangerous place for kids. Learn how to search their website history and watch for signs that show they make have altered it; learn about parental controls; go through their emails and texts on a regular basis.
- Establish routines that you all hold sacred – pizza night, movie night, family bowling – whatever gets you together. Make a promise to show up every time.
- Never give up, even if your teen is having a really hard time – this too shall pass. Your job is to hang in there and maintain the parent-child relationship while their brain finishes maturing (a process that is not complete until they are nearly 20!).
- Watch for warning signs of real trouble; and get help if you see your teen becoming withdrawn, grades dropping, sleep or eating patterns changing drastically, friendships shifting in a bad way, or anything else you find disturbing.
If you need help with your ‘tween or teen, come see us at Eugene Pediatric Associates. We are here to help you every step of the way.