Even though I’m not a parent, I’m an uncle. And as an involved uncle, who has helped raise two nephews and a niece, I get a firsthand glimpse at the struggles of parenting a teenager.
My oldest nephew is 15 – going on 16 – and he’s in full-on “teen-mode.” He never puts down his phone/iPad, he’s constantly playing Fortnite or watching YouTube videos, his headphones are always in his ears, he’s always texting, he’s always in his room when the entire family is in the living room, and so on.
Essentially, he’s concerned with himself above all else.
We’ve all been there, diving into those teenage years where we start to become engulfed with our personal interests, our lifestyle, and the opposite sex.
But for parents, this teenage phase is often the most difficult phase of parenting. It’s hard getting through to a kid who all of a sudden is too cool for his own parents.
So, how do we deal with the teenage phase when it comes on strong? Below are seven tips on how parents can navigate “teen-mode” when it comes to their young adult:
Communication is key Sit down and talk. Your teenager might not always want to communicate, but have a serious conversation regarding your expectations for them while living under your roof. And at the same time, even though you are the parent, make sure you are also willing to listen. For example, if your teenager says, “I feel like you don’t trust me,” ask them why and then commit to doing better. As a parent, you have to be willing to adjust. Rigidity rarely gets us anywhere! Also, have the tough conversations. Talk about the temptations that exist in the world. Talk about how to use common sense and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Incentivize their lifestyle When I was in high school, my parents always said to me, “You have one job: do well in school.” If I did well in school, my life was a lot easier. I also had household chores and was an athlete. If I woke up Saturday, handled my chores and did my workout, once again, my life was a lot easier. Make it clear to your teenager that if they handle their business in the classroom and at home, it will earn them more freedom.
Stay in touch with their circle Teenagers are prone to be secretive with their lifestyle, including their friend group. As a parent, there are ways to combat this. For example, invite your teenager’s friends to do something fun. Take them bowling, invite them over for dinner, take them to the movies, and so on. Do what you have to in order to keep tabs on your child’s friend group. It’s important to know who your teenager is spending time with.
Keep up with the technology times If you don’t have an account on every social media application that your teenager has, get one today. Follow your son/daughter on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. And even if you don’t want to follow them, make sure you know how the applications work, so that you know what your teenager and their friends are capable of within the app.
Maintain your access Even if you do not check their phones, have access to them. Know their passcodes, even if you don’t use it. There needs to at least be the illusion that you are watching what they are doing. Also, have some type of protocol on their phones. For instance, make them hand over the phone at a certain time in the evening and return it to them in the morning. They do not need to have the phone all night.
When it’s time, be a friend Parents are not supposed to be friends with their kids. Parents are guardians, role models, disciplinarians, teachers, and much more. Still, there is a time and a place to be your child’s friend and confidant, especially when they become a teenager and start to lose that childhood innocence and naivete. If your teenager needs someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, it’s important that they can look to you and not feel like you will judge them or be too hard on them.
Go to church with your teenager Make sure your teen sees that you are invested in your faith and are a strong, God-fearing adult. Lead by example when it comes to faith!
Parenting is hard, and there is no professional manual on how to be a great parent. But what is clear is that being involved with your teenager, as they attempt to navigate high school and their formative years, is the most important step.