It is a fact of life. One day your adorable little girl seems to have disappeared and been replaced by an eye rolling irritating person that is embarrassed by your presence around her friends. Or your sweet little boy seems to have forgotten how to answer with anything other than a sullen “yes” or “no”. It has happened. They have become teens!
As hard as this is for all of you, it is critical for kids to break away from their parents, to separate and individuate and become an independent healthy adult. So, how can parents survive these tumultuous times?
- Pick your battles wisely…a messy room is generally far less important than being firm on use of drugs. Purple hair really isn’t dangerous. But you want to be clear and firm on things that could be permanent, such as a tattoo.
- Get to know their friends…invite their friends to dinner and drive carpools. It is amazing what you learn listening to them talk to each other and sharing conversation with them.
- Set a few rules and stick to them. Kids need to know what to expect. It keeps them safe.
- Let the punishment fit the crime…Don’t make threats you can’t keep such as you are grounded for life or even three weeks. You don’t want to be stuck in the house with your teen for three weeks! You might consider having them help set the punishments.
- Accept that they will be trying new things…instead of being shocked and punishing them, engage them in conversation. Find out how they felt about the experience and how this fits with who they want to be.
- Talk about risky behaviors …Let them know what can happen as a result of certain behaviors
- Give them a game plan…talk about what they should do if they find themselves in a bad situation. Let them know they can call you and you will come and get them so they never get into a car with a drunk driver. Or make sure they always have cab fare. Ask them what they think would be helpful.
- Let kids feel guilty if they have done something wrong…self esteem is important but is sometimes overrated. Guilt, unlike shame, is a very healthy emotion.
- Be a role model…Kids do what we do not what we say.
- Keep your sense of humor and laugh whenever possible!