Raising children of any age is one of life’s greatest challenges but when children become teenagers, parents can find it bewildering as they work their way through the maze of their teen’s hormonal changes, unpredictable moods, and peer group pressures. Raising your teenager to become a responsible, independent and happy adult is an ongoing process but there are some things that you can do to help ease the journey.
Identify the skills you want your teen to have
We all want our children to grow into settled, responsible and caring adults. To help guide a child in the right direction, it can help when parents identify the life skills they feel are important for their teenager to learn. Practical skills such as budgeting and household management are as important as emotional skills such as choosing friends wisely, learning to compromise with others and developing self-belief. Listing the skills you want your teen to develop will provide you with a blueprint for guiding them through to young adulthood.
Love, humour and boundaries
A blend of love, humour and boundaries is key to raising healthy teenagers. And although nothing about parenting is simple, focusing on these three areas can make a real difference.
Loving even when it’s hard
Even when the going gets tough, let your teen know that you love and respect them for being the individuals they are, using both words and actions. Without consistent affirmation, teenagers are more likely to turn to their peers for reassurance. The fact that all teens need a peer group to learn life skills doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be reminded often of the love of their parents and of their wider family.
One of the key foundations of emotional wellbeing is the ability to laugh and enjoy a joke with others. Positive emotions help raise self-esteem and promote connection with others, all essential for teens’ emotional growth. Plan fun family activities such as a football match in the park or a casual get together with family or friends for a diversion from the stresses of your teen’s everyday life. Raising teens can be difficult, but humour can help to put things into perspective for you both.
Setting limits with teens is crucial. After all, even adults have to learn ‘the rules’ to get along in life. Each family has its own approach to discipline, but setting boundaries as early as possible clearly defines both acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. It’s also important that teens understand the consequences if they don’t abide by the rules. Some boundaries are in place for reasons of safety (curfews or calling home when out with friends), while others are designed to help your teen develop important life skills (doing chores, studying for exams). Treat each boundary as equally important but explain the why behind each. Cooperation and compromise may not always be possible but it’s a positive way for you to model how, in the adult world, it’s sometimes necessary to have difficult conversations which require maturity and mutual respect.
Useful tips on raising healthy and happy teenagers can be found by visiting:
A practical resource offering a wide range of tips for parents raising teens of all ages.
A website and a telephone advice line dedicated to helping parents raise teens covering issues such as setting boundaries, dealing with problems at school and understanding peer pressure. Family Lives also offers a number of local parenting support groups.