It’s graduation season, which got me thinking about teenagers and living with them and how often I hear parents talk about how hard this season of life can be. It’s true, raising teens can be challenging. We raised three, and there were some really great days and some that were truly awful. Here are a few thoughts on dealing with the teenagers who live at your house.
- Give them clear guidelines. Make sure they know exactly what the rules are and what the consequences will be. If your standards are fair and reasonable, your teen will respect that.
- Involve them in the process of setting limits, curfews, etc. Get their input and ideas on what is reasonable and safe. Talk through each scenario and make a decision.
- Let them know that you love them, no matter what. Your home can be a safe haven or just another place of conflict. Which one is really up to you.
- Figure out ways to spend one-on-one time with each of your children. I know this is hard, and at our house, if it isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t happen. (Lunch at school, breakfast, dinner dates)
- Make yourself aware of what kind of music they listen to, where they like to go, what they like to do. Without trying to “sound like them”, just being aware of the culture they live in goes a long way. Along with this, monitor their social media use. Teens with free access to the internet will more than likely get into trouble with it. Set time limits and have contracts in place about phone and computer use.
- Get to know their friends. Let your house be THE house to hang out at. This is expensive and involves staying up later than you’d like, having more kids spend the night than you’d like and your house being messier than you’d like.
- Don’t shelter them from the consequences of their own behavior. At some point you have to stop packing their lunch, taking things to school that they accidentally left at home, and making everything right for them. They may not like it, but they need to know how to wash their own clothes, pack their own lunch.
- Say YES every time you possibly can. In fact, go out of your way to say YES to your kids. This means letting friends spend the night on school nights, being the mom who’s willing to drive them to the movies, etc. My philosophy is “Say yes as much as you can, so that when you have to say no, it means something.”
- Know when to keep your mouth shut. (Clothes, my opinion about boyfriends, girlfriends, etc)
- Lighten up! Laugh it off, don’t take things too seriously. Have fun and enjoy these children while they are at home!
- Ask them for their opinion about things. Often times they have great advice and expert opinions.
- Consider what is going on in your own life… It’s almost a sick joke that we go through menopause and male mid-life crisis at the same time our children are going through adolescence and “teenagedom”. If you are sick, dealing with aging parents, sick siblings, going through a difficult time in your marriage, suffering from medical problems or depression… all of these things will affect how you parent. Be careful not to take this out on your teen.
- LISTEN to them. This can be in the car, around the table, standing around the kitchen or even on the phone. Your body language says more than your mouth. They need to know that you are really listening to what they are saying.
Teens are my favorite population to work with in counseling. They’re generally honest and appreciate having my undivided attention for an hour. They love their parents but don’t know how to show it without seeming uncool. They want to be heard and appreciated.
Everybody says it. Blink and they’ll be gone. This mama of grown girls agrees. It really does go fast! Enjoy every day.