Parenting teens is an adventure, to say the least.
It can be so hard to strike a balance between being protective and preparing your teenagers for the rest of their lives, while also giving them the necessary room to make mistakes and learn lessons. We can talk about punishments for teenagers, but there’s lot more to raising teens than that.
Understanding teenagers can feel like an uphill battle but here’s the good news: You don’t always need to understand them, sometimes just being there for them and listening to them is more than enough, and it’s more than many teenagers will get from their parents.
Teenage attitude and behavior can be frustrating as a parent, even if you remember your own teenage years and how difficult it could be at times. When parenting teens, approach it with empathy and an open heart while keeping a focus on preparing them for the world, and you’ll do just fine.
1. Parents Can Be Friends With Their Teenagers, But It’s Different…
Sometimes, parents have a really difficult time when it comes to boundaries and how to go about parenting their teenagers when they want to be friends with them but also need to be parents.
The goal of this post isn’t to try to lecture you about how to parent your teens or how close you want to get to them, but just keep in mind that teenagers need friends and parents. You can be friends with your teenager while still being a parent and being the authority in your household, you just have to understand that the friendship you have when raising teenagers is going to be different than the one you had with them when they were kids, and that you’ll have with them when they’re adults.
As kids, you play much less of a “friend” role, and as they get older, you can lean into the role of being friends with your teen more and more so. At a certain point, they’ll be adults and they’ll be on their own, doing their own thing, so the “parenting” role will diminish a bit, you’ll always be their parent but you’ll be more on the same level as one another, as friends.
This dynamic can vary a lot but it’s important to know that if you want to be the “cool mom” or “cool dad” who lets your teens party in your home when they’re still too young and lets them grow up doing whatever they want, this can lead to some problems for them later in life.
I can’t tell you how to strike the perfect balance, especially when you’re dealing with difficult teenage sons or daughters,
2. You Need to Fight to Make Time Together When You’re Parenting Teenagers
Remember the days when your teenager was still very young, and you would dream of a few moments to yourself, of peace and quiet? Well, careful what you wish for, because many teenagers tend to withdraw from your parents, as they start to learn who they are as individuals and are keen to start forging out their own path.
If you want to end up spending any amount of time with your teenager, you’ll probably have to fight to make it happen but I don’t mean fighting with your teenager, I just mean putting it a lot of effort.
Between you being tired after work, your teenager wanting to spend time with their friends, and all of the other stuff that comes up and keeps us busy in life, it can be really difficult to make time where both of you are up for it.
Beyond that, your teenager probably won’t want to spend as much time with you as they once did. The good news is that this can be just a phase a lot of the time, especially if you don’t push them away during their teenage years.
Even if it’s difficult, a big part of this involves being ready when your teenagers need you, but not making them feel bad for living their own lives. Don’t push so hard that they start to resent you, instead, put that energy towards being ready and there for them when they need you, and giving them space when they need to figure things out for themselves.
Why do teenagers sleep so much? There are a handful of reasons, but this also makes it harder to find time to spend with your kids.
3. Try to Eat Meals Together
In most cultures, eating together is a significant part of forging and maintaining a strong relationship with somebody.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, try to keep the family meal time as a positive experience for everyone. It’s not the best time to bring up family issues or problems, as some people just want to enjoy their meal and not have any extra stress or anxieties added to the experience.
If you can keep your family dinners pleasant, I’m confident in telling you that your teenagers will find themselves coming to the table a lot more often than when they never know if they’re going to get blindsided or criticized or antagonized at dinner.
While waiting for dinner to be served and feeling somewhat hungry, this can be a time when people might let their guards down a little bit, and the same applies to while they’re eating. This can be a great time to connect with your teenager, to learn about their day, and to start to introduce them to some of the stuff that you deal with as an adult. That’s bonding!
If meal time is some of the only time that you see your teenager some days, try to be mindful and to really appreciate this time together. Sometimes, your teenager might want to just grab a plate of food and eat in their bedroom. It’s up to you whether you make family dinners a mandatory thing every single night, or certain nights a week, and how much flexibility you’re going to give them in regards to missing dinner.
4. Have Family Meetings to Help With Parenting Teenagers
Having a formally agreed upon time to go over various important things, including grievances with one another, can be very healthy. This is when you can talk about chores, talk about family issues, talk about things that are on your mind, instead of bringing these things up when the family’s just spending nice time together.
If parents are randomly bringing up these types of more serious topics during dinners together, or during leisure time together, your teenager may be a little bit less enthusiastic to hang out.
If your teen knows that they aren’t going to be blindsided by anything during a meal together, or while watching TV, or sitting in the yard or at the park, then that will get rid of some of the friction of getting your teen to spend time with you in the first place.
Make sure every member of the family knows that a family meeting is a safe time to bring up anything that’s on their mind. Remember, as a family unit, you should encourage everyone to work together and to be open and honest.
Everyone needs to feel like they have the opportunity to be heard, and that they aren’t ridiculed for bringing up anything they want to. This doesn’t mean that the prisoners are running the asylum, so to speak, and that you should let your teenager start making all of the rules and decisions. Not even close! It just means that they should be heard and encouraged to participate in a family meeting.
5. Read the “Positive Parenting Strategies for the Teenage Years PDF” – Download it here!
There are many different books and articles that have been written on the topic of parenting strategies for teenagers, and Positive Parenting Strategies for the Teenage Years is a popular one that’s often searched for by parents.
Here’s a link to read or download the PDF version. It’s only about a dozen pages, and has a lot of insightful information. You may not agree with all of it, but give it some thought and see if you can relate to any of the ideas or strategies that are discussed in this document. You can right click to save the link, or you can even print off a copy. Either way, it’s worth a read for any moms or dads who are raising teenagers.
Even if you have a relatively chill teenager and not a defiant teenager, these strategies can help to keep things that way.
6. Keep Connected After Your Teens Have Grown Up
Staying connected to your teenager after they move out and really start to build their own life is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent. You get to see them as adults, now. You can take a little credit for getting them there, while also recognizing that they played a pretty major role, too!
Parenting teens is the last bid hurdle, after that they’re adults and they can make all of their own decisions. Hopefully, those decisions include choosing to keep in close touch with you, and that’s a great goal to have. But understand that people go through different phases in lives too. If you’ve given them the room to grow during their teenage years, while also ensuring that they know they can count on you and come to you when they need it, there’s a better chance that they’ll stay closer.
Remember that part about fighting to keep in touch with them? This also means making the effort to reach out to them, even if you wish they’d initiate the contact more often. As a parent, you’ll have to swallow your ego sometimes, and be the one initiating contact, but it’s priceless for your teenagers (now adults) to know that you’re there for them.
If you become overbearing, and the times that you do talk to them turn into a guilt trip to make them feel bad about not visiting more often and other similar things, this can put a real strain on the relationship.
In case I’m being misunderstood, I just want to say that I’m not saying that everyone raising teenagers needs to be a total pushover once the kids have grown up. You can tell them what you’d like from them, and see how they respond, without nagging or creating stressful expectations to put on them.
7. Set a Good Example of Self Care
Whatever your self care routine and priorities look like, this is going to be some early modelling that your teenager will have started to pick up on when they were young. Taking good care of your mind and your body is something that you can do for yourself, but if you need any additional motivation, just remember that you’re modelling behavior that your teenagers will learn from.
Learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way, instead of turning to different vices, is one of the best things you can do for your teenager. Sometimes, life is hard, and it’s good if you can equip your teens to deal with all of the many curve balls that will come their way.
The best way to do this is to make self care a normal part of life. Even if it’s something new for you, do your best, learn as you go, and set a great example about how adults handle difficult situations or just the stress of day to day life. These are things that teens will notice and pick up on…
As much as they try to act too cool for school, you’ve probably noticed other habits or patterns of your that your kids have picked up on while you’re raising teens, even if they would never admit it. Your teens learn from the stuff you teach them explicitly, but they also pick up behaviors that you show them, even if you aren’t trying to and don’t realize it at the time.
8. There Will Be Conflicts When Raising Teenagers
Teenagers are learning who they are, they’re figuring out what they believe in, and they’re writing their own moral code. You can influence them, but the truth is that any influence you’re going to have in any major way has problem taken place already and they’re either modelling themselves after you, or rebelling against your example to try not to be like you in certain ways. This is normal, and you need to give them the space to do this and to figure things out.
Despite doing your best to give them room to grow while also stepping in to guide them when it’s necessary, there will be conflicts and you will butt heads with your teenagers, that’s just part of the process of parenting teens.
The way that you handle conflicts and disagreements with your teenager will have a profound impact on how they learn conflict resolution in general, and how they apply it to their own lives. If you can resolve things in a way that makes them feel heard and gives them input, it’s a much healthier example in regards to teaching them good life skills for teens.
9. Not Everything Has to be a Battle
As I said in the previous section, there will be conflicts between you and your teen but not everything has to be a fight. Sometimes, you can just step back and in the immortal words of Paul McCartney… let it be.
Knowing when to let something be, and when to fight and make sure that things go a certain way, is a tough skill to master and frankly, you’re going to make some mistakes here. You’re a human being. Sometimes, you’ll react to something emotionally in the moment and that’s not the best way to handle everything.
If you make a mistake and handle something poorly, this is a perfect opportunity to sit down with your teen and apologize or explain what happened. Even if they aren’t ready to apologize for their part in it right away, give them a little space, and hopefully they’ll see that you’re able to be humble and admit fault and reflect on something, and they’ll learn to do the same.
Final Thoughts on Raising Teenagers and Parenting Teenagers
Parenting teenagers is not easy, but you’ve made it this far so keep it up. You can absolutely still infleuence them in positive ways and ensure they’re equipped to deal with the world, just try not to make a little clone of yourself and try not to be too pushy.
Parenting today’s teens can be confusing and scary, since you didn’t grow up with cellphones or internet access the way that teens are today.
Sidenote: You can learn about the positive effects of social media as well as the disadvantages of social media to have a more nuanced opinion on this.
In any case, there are many different theories or thoughts when it comes to parenting teens, so your job is to do your best when it comes to understanding teenagers and forming a strategy that best fits your personality, your teenager’s, and the situation in which you’re living.