Yesterday I published with Brain Child called Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers. Here is an interesting backstory to that essay.
To start off the very informal survey, I posted a message on Facebook asking teenagers what advice they might have for the parents of teenagers about raising teenagers. The responses I got were from parents, almost nothing from actual teens. Later I clarified, I sent out personal messages, and I grabbed the teens in my physical vicinity and hounded them. Of course, most of my Facebook friends aren’t teens, but some are.
I thought the more experienced parents (since I’m just over a year into the teen years, which by the way, I am loving) had pretty sound advice. I even got email responses so that people could respond more thoroughly. I wanted to leave the Brain Child post essentially to the teens but I also wanted to spread the wisdom of these parents far wiser than me, so here are some of the highlights.
1. Listen. Do whatever it takes to listen. If it means staying up until three in the morning but that is when they are talking, stay up. If it means driving past your final destination in the car but they are talking, drive right on past. If it means biting your tongue because now they are talking and are not asking advice, bite your tongue. Their thoughts and opinions and perspectives are important, valuable, and fascinating but you won’t know them unless you shut up and listen. Listen to what their whole body, not just their voice is saying. Make choices that let you listen at important times. One example was: if your kids go to a camp, offer to carpool and offer to take the drive-home-after trip. That is when they will be gabbing with friends and when they get home they might not be so inclined. Listen.
2. Pray. Pray with them and for them and for yourself as you parent them.
3. Negotiate. Rules don’t have to be hard and fast anymore and they shouldn’t necessarily be the same rules you had when they were younger. Choose your battles carefully and, as one parent put it, practice “creative ignoring” and “don’t shoot a mole with an elephant gun.” Part of negotiating is asking their opinion, for what they think would be a fair solution. I’ve done this with my own kids – “I don’t really know how to respond to this situation in which we find ourselves. What do you think?”
4. Be honest. You aren’t perfect either, confess and ask forgiveness when you mess up. You also weren’t perfect when you were a teenager. I love how one parent put it, “Don’t hide your mistakes, problems, and personal geekiness. Let them see it is okay to be imperfect.”
5. Know their friends. Know their names, invite them to your house. If possible, have your house be the center of social life or at least a safe and fun place for them to hang out. Food helps with this.
6. Be available and present. One parent wrote, “Be prepared to spend more time with them than you did in the early years.” I think that can come as a huge shock or can be something parents simply ignore. They are pretty independent and self-sufficient. But they are also going through huge hormonal and brain developments, facing major life decisions, and learning to navigate new, intensely important, experiences. Be available.
7. Find good role models. Role models that aren’t you. Ask other adults to invest in your teens or encourage the ones that already do.
8. Let them learn. Let them ask questions, push boundaries, take risks. Remember that the journey is not over yet, they haven’t ‘turned out’ yet. Have any of us? Let them process and test, make mistakes, develop their own interpretations or decisions.
9. Fight for them. Be “fiercely ‘pro’ for your kids,” one parent said. Others don’t know them and might judge them. You fight for them. Another used the same word, “love fiercely.”
10. Enjoy them. They are people. People! Enjoy them and enjoy watching them figure things out. Make it clear that you enjoy them. Does your face light up when they walk in the room? Keep a good sense of humor. Never, ever talk negatively about your teen, or younger child, in front of them or in front of your other children.
Hug them, tell them you love them, wrestle with them, play with them, listen to their music, read the books they are reading, do what they love to do, tell them you are proud of them and make it obvious.
I know you’ve got more advice…
And click here to read what our teens what us to know: Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers