Teenage is special. Teenage is sensitive. Teenage is a stage where individuality starts shaping up.
It is interesting to see the perspective of this phase from the eyes of the child and the parents. While the parents, when being a child, experiences the same fire in themselves, they seem to be in denial or fearful when it comes to their own children. Ofcourse, the times have changed and children these days have much more exposure than we used to have as kids, but the spirit that starts shooting up is the same. That’s basically inevitable. The acceptance and right approach towards it is the key to helping your child grow through this phase in a meaningful way.
Most of the time the child is excited to step into a teen age, which they believe is the beginning of the era where they are treated as grownups, they are heard than most of the time being told what to do, having freedom of thought and action, being seen as responsible, allowed to take decisions, and what not. While parents turn into fearful, nervous & anxious souls, policing their kids and completely into denial of letting the reins loosen a bit. And hence tussle arises.
No one is wrong and no one is right. It is just about the balance and we as adults need to be more responsible in managing & supporting this change in the lives of our kids than blaming our kids to have turned into monsters (on a lighter note). And that is because we have gone through it in the past and we are aware. Kids are only exploring and witnessing the natural change in themselves which they believe is giving them power to breakfree and giving them their individuality. It is new for them and anything getting in their way of joyful experience is unacceptable to them. And most of the time it is their parents who are seen as obstacles. And hence this phase is seen as troublesome for both kids and parents.
I see it as a game of expectations – perhaps the kids expect an overnight shift in how they are treated and parents become over protective and insecure of letting their control get loose on their kids and hence tighten it more. Both fail to acknowledge the overlapping phase that is sensitive and their reactions impacts the quality of relationship as well.
While the fact is that is the best time where the seeds of a new relationship with the kids can be sown – and that new relationship is that of being friends. And this will happen when you accept that these changes will happen and more your try to control, more they will get out of your control. So the best is to do this journey along with your kid, being around and letting them feel that their parents are in support of them and not that they will have to fight their parents out to live.
Now, it is important to understand what does supporting mean?
- Be genuinely interested in listening to them – schedule some mutually convenient time to sit with them and ask them about how did their day go, know about their friends, what they talk and do, what do they aspire to do etc. This will give you a good understanding of what kind of people your child is with, what kind of thoughts and perspectives your child is developing, what are probable influencers around your child etc.
- Give them safety to talk and share – The moment you attack them on listening to what is not aligned with your thinking, or start preaching them your ways of things, they lose confidence and tend to filter things out of their conversations. And that’s the last thing that you would want.
- It is also an opportunity for you to learn about perspectives through the eyes of a new generation and that can actually change your way of thinking is some cases.
- Share a lot of stories – Stories are the best way of learning. Any direct preaching doesn’t work with teenagers, in fact no one likes it. Share stories of yourself or even others through which they could derive lessons/ messages that can help them pause to think before taking action.
- Negotiation is important – It is said that teenagers have boiling blood which basically means super energy, super confidence and super fire to act and because they lack experience of life, there are chances they may make mistakes. And that should be okay as we all mostly learn through experiences. But what is important is that you are around, aware and with them to support through a situation than to be caught unaware of what your child is upto. Ofcourse anything that is high risk is what you need to avoid, but that will only happen when out of 10 times, you listen to your child 4-5 times. One way charge doesn’t work at this stage. Keep your 5 chances for crucial topics and let your child win over the simple or manageable ones. This way negotiation will be easier for you.
- Do things with your kids – It is an opportunity for you to relive your teens and it will be a different experience than when you were actually a teen. It will keep you younger.
- Share perspectives and have healthy discussions than to tell them they are wrong. In their mind, the discussion ends where they are told they are wrong. And chances are that they may do what they wish to behind your back. Help them understand that every action has a reaction and they need to be responsible for their actions and face the consequences. So while they feel responsible for the results, they would think about other perspectives as well.
- Ask them their opinions and allow them to take decisions – This must be started small. It helps them feel significant, being treated as grownup, consulted, involved & responsible. This will also help you letting lose the reins that you ultimately will have to sometime or the other in life. So better get used to with easy things.
Be in complete acceptance of the phase in your child’s life.
Let your child teenage be a joyful one. Let them believe that no one else but you understand and support them the best, not because they are being told so, but they feel & know so.
IMPORTANT TIP – Be like a parent that you wanted your parents to be when you were in your teens. If you could honestly answer this question, you would not have to ask any teenager about what they want.