Hormones, mood swings, and navigating romantic interests-fun things that teenagers have to deal with for the first time. Add that with our fast paced world and ever constant social media and you’ll see being a teenager is hard. No matter what others say, I firmly believe it is harder to be a teenager now than when I was one. So, how can we help them make this transition smoother?
If you didn’t read my blog on How to Navigate the Social Media World with Teens, please check that out.
Your teen needs friends. They don’t need tons of friends but they need at least two dependable friends. (I always say two because then if he is fighting with one, he has another). If making friends is hard for your teenager, help him figure out some sort of activity he can join where he has the opportunity to make friends. This can be sports, school clubs, community clubs, church, fantasy gaming, or Scouts. Joining a new activity can be scary. If your teen has a hard time making friends, role-play with him. If it is hard for you, ask someone he is relaxed around to role play with him.
Meet the parents of your teenager’s friends. Meet them in person. Talk to them about rules at their house. Do they line up with your rules? Are there guns at the house? If so, are they locked up? What about alcohol? How do they monitor social media? What types of shows are their kids allowed to watch? Of course there rules will be different from yours but are they at least similar? If not, you may need to consider your house as the place to hang out.
Talk to your teenager’s friends. Please don’t judge them based on looks. You may be surprised how much in common you have with a teenager who appears very different from you.
Hang out with your teenager. At least once a month, each parent should have some one-on-one time with each child you have. This could be shooting hoops, throwing around a ball, playing a few rounds of cards. Or it could be going to the movies, the local car show, or just out to lunch. The goal of this is just to hang out. No ulterior motive to find out their deep, dark secrets. Just have fun togetherJ
At least once a month the family should do something together too. Spending money is not a requirement for this. Again, this is done just to show you care.
Check in with them about school. The older your teenager becomes, (hopefully) the less you will have to be monitoring their school work. Of course, this varies greatly by child. Emphasize working to the best of one’s ability. Help them find help when needed. And make sure they are having fun at school too!
Lastly, remember you are your teenager’s greatest role model. They are watching you-even at seventeen, eighteen, and up. If you are doing things that are inappropriate, they will too. Think along the lines of lying, cheating, and being dishonest.
I first heard this “word” last November while in Disney World. I was so hungry that I stopped my group (which included three other adults and five children) and said I was eating at the restaurant we were nearest and they could go on without me to the place we planned on eating. I stomped off without them.
Later, (after I ate) one of the other adults said I had been “hangry,” a mixture of hungry and angry. He was right. I had allowed myself to go too long without eating and a grumpy, demanding person emerged. I frequently do that when I’m tired too. I would guess we all act out inappropriately from time to time including our kids. I wonder though, do we hold them to the same standards as we hold ourselves?
Think about this-has your child ever started crying/whining because they were hungry and you felt they were overreacting? Isn’t that the same as when I became angry and demanding? Children cannot always express themselves with words.
Have you ever let the kids stay up late in order to participate in a family gathering only to have a little monster instead of your child the next day? Again, that is how children express themselves.
It is our job to help them learn how to express those feelings appropriately. Here are some tips:
Give everyone a time-out or break. When we feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, etc and then try to teach others, it usually ends poorly. It is okay to have your child go to their room, a time-out chair, or other quiet place while you do the same. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this is how your child knows how to have his needs met.
Once you are in a better frame of mind, ask your child to take a few deep breaths. Then do it with them! (Of course, you might be doing it alone at first if he still hasn’t calmed down).
Next, ask your child to ask for what they need. (Notice I say need-when hungry, we need food). You might have to help them out-“You seem hungry. Would you like an apple or some milk.” Then ask them to say “Yes please.” Or “You seem really tired. Do you need to take is easy today?”
You can also help your child express his feelings by stating what you see. For example, “You seem mad that you feel hungry.”
Once the need is fulfilled, go back and talk to your child about the behavior you noticed and what he can do next time before it becomes that bad.
Also, make sure you are being preventative. I know that I rarely engage in late evening activities for my kids because it is just not fair to any of us the next day.
And it’s not too late for us to learn this about ourselves either. I was prepared the rest of our vacation to prevent myself from becoming so hungry!
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.