Adolescence is a challenging time for young people, bringing on not only the physical changes of puberty, but emotional transformation as well and in some cases, the emergence of serious mental health conditions. For parents, it can sometimes seem like their affectionate, adoring child has become a different, distant person and that their teen friends have become more important to them than their family. But some of these changes are part of the essential process of moving toward independence and parents who are able to offer more empathy than judgment can continue to be a source of guidance for their kids, and emerge from this period with their relationship intact.
Below are some tips to help parents navigate the delicate period of their ward’s teen stage.
- Make it a high priority to eat meals together with your teenage child as often as you can. Meals are a great opportunity to talk about the days’ events, to unwind, reinforce and bond. They are also your best opportunity to keep in touch with your teen’s life and challenges, and to spot brewing problems.
- Every teen parent hopes their child would do well in life. But hope alone does not shape your child’s destiny. Keep phones and laptops out of bedrooms. Using gadgets in the sitting room minimises the possibility of “sextexting” and access to pornography on the internet.
- Let your teen invite their friends home, but keep bedrooms out of bounds for visitors. This may sound archaic, but most teens engage in their first sex at home or in a friend’s house. Also, keep hard (alcoholic) drinks out of your house. Most teens taste alcohol for the first time at home simply because it was accessible.
- Teens crave the security of knowing that their parents understand them, appreciate them, and love them no matter what, so they want the relationship between them to be more of a friendship. But they also need to feel like they have some independence, so sometimes they may shut you out. If you can navigate your closeness in an acceptable way, he or she would be more likely to open up and share with you.
- Does a close friendship erode your teen’s respect for you? No! Don’t you respect your friends, and treasure those who are really there for you emotionally? Likewise, if you offer your teen respect, consideration, and authenticity, that’s what you would receive in return.
- No matter how close you want to be with your teen, you do not always have to give in to their wishes. If you are doing this often, that is a red flag. Teens look up to their parents to set limits they cannot set for themselves. Therefore, sometimes, you would need to stick by your values and say NO, whether that is to an unsupervised party or a very late bedtime. Alternatively, with your guidance, your teen could come up with a win-win solution that addresses the concerns you may have regarding their request.
Be an intentional parent. While prayer for kids is paramount, create systems that will help your child stay on the narrow and the straight. The main reason most children do not watch porn, engage in sex and drink booze in most schools is because schools have put up checks and balances. Regrettably, many parents drop the ball and ride on empty hopes that their child or children would turn out all right.
Written by Elder Blankson Appiah-Anning (PhD)