Teenage years are be overwhelming, daunting, and just downright filled with fear. This is true for the young adolescents and parents alike. Teens become withdrawn, silent, and even aggressive. And parents react by becoming defensive, scared, and overly protective.
According to Ilze Alberts, Johannesburg-based life strategist and psychologist, parents are often caught between a rock and a hard place: They don't want to do too little or too much as they don't want to scare away these young adults. But it is tough! They become like aliens in your home. They have moods swings and volatile emotions, and they become demanding, selfish, and overly focussed on their interests and priorities.
Communication is the key to bridging this relationship gap, but in the digital age, it has become even more tricky to talk to your teenage sons and daughters. Nowadays children prefer to ask their Google for advice instead of speaking to a human." Having raised her son and daughter alone, Alberts too walked this treacherous path. I understand that this period is demanding, challenging and extremely stressful.
From personal and professional experience, I have gained valuable insights and learned tough lessons. And yes, in certain instances I failed. However, it is comforting to know that you are not alone in this boat.
Alberts shares these five top tips on how to have an effective relationship with your teen.
Remember yourself as a teenager and remind yourself of your pains and pleasures, challenges, and support structures, the uncertainties, peer pressure and how you handled it all.
1. Get to know their world
The world of today's teens is daunting for most parents. Facebook, Twitter, BBM, WhatsApp, Internet, drugs, sex, alcohol, and many other experiences, with which many parents are not familiar, are their reality.
Make sure you get to know their world. Listen to their music, watch their movies, pay attention to their talk, and show an interest in their reality. Remember, this world is just as overwhelming to them. They might seem to only be interested in their social lives or sports events, but in their heart, they still need their mommy and daddy.
2. Guard against becoming the preacher
It is easy to become the preacher and warn them against the dangers of this world. However, they perceive you as old-fashioned and clueless, says Alberts, "The more you preach to them and set tight boundaries, the more they see you as the enemy. The result is that your relationship and communication become strained."
I wanted to shout from the rooftops to be careful of the clubs, the malls, drugs, bullies, the Internet. All they heard was nagging and moaning. The more I preached, the further away they drifted. "One day the penny dropped: Stop being the preacher. From that day onwards, I changed from preaching to talking and informing with care.
3. Remember the fun and discoveries of your own teenage years
Remember yourself as a teenager and remind yourself of your pains and pleasures, challenges, and support structures, the uncertainties, peer pressure and how you handled it all. We lived our teenage years according to the current times and so are your teens. Many parents fear for the wellbeing of their kids because they know what they were up to as teenagers themselves.
Teenage years are an important period of your life; it is a time of learning to be more independent and self-reliant. We get more freedom and have to make a lot of difficult choices. We learn about relationships with the opposite sex, the tears and ecstasy of falling in and out of love, lots of school work, learning to deal with pressure and being halfway between a child and an adult. It is also a time of fun and new discoveries.
By opening yourself up to work through your fears and enjoy your teenage kids, you open up a new world of experiences for yourself.
4. Give them wings
Trust that you did a good enough job with your parenting. You have the biggest impact on your kids' life from when they are born until they turn six years old. From then on, you are enforcing the basic principles and parenting style that you have adopted.
Alberts says, "Give your teen a long enough string to explore, but not too long that they hang themselves. Even though teens seem to be more focused on their friends and social life, you as the parent is still important."
5. Be teen-focused
Apart from knowing their world, also know your teen. Know what is of value, importance and a priority to your teenager. Watch what they fill their space with, and on what they spend their time, what they like to talk about, what motivates them, what goals they set, and in which areas of their lives are they disciplined and organised. The answers to these questions will help you understand what is really important to your teenage child.
According to Alberts, the rule of thumb for a good relationship with your teen is acceptance without qualification. Give them what they want within boundaries and age-appropriate limitations.
"Expect the best from them but be realistic. And enjoy these years as much as possible. You will learn more about yourself and realise that your kids are not extensions of you, but their own unique individual selves. "By opening yourself up to work through your fears and enjoy your teenage kids, you open up a new world of experiences for yourself," Alberts concludes.