Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
Preparing Yourself and Your Child/ren for the Teen Years
I remember so vividly holding his hand as we crossed the street downtown. His chubby fingers laced into mine, and he was so sweet. Our biggest debate was nap time and bed time.
Before I knew it, years had gone by, and we stood in the hallway of our home, staring at one another. He had been caught breaking curfew and the penalty was no phone, no vehicle until the next report card- period. His eyes grew cold and dark as he stared through me. "I hate you!" He screamed, shoving past me, slamming his door.
Careful planning had led me to this moment. I calmly walked into his room where he sat on the end of the bed. "I'll need to get your keys and your phone right now. No riding in other cars, either." He gave me the keys and the phone, but the silence was ominous. I stayed in the room for a moment, gathering a calm about me and making sure that my tone remained civil. "Thank You. I know this is not awesome right now, but in less than 2 months, you will have your things back." He nodded and turned away. "I'm sorry I broke curfew" he said before sinking back down on his bed.
Knowing that there will be battles is the biggest obstacle to get over. Get over it right now, because obstacles are part of a child turning into an adult.
Your sweet toddler that screamed to avoid nap time will now scream to avoid doing chores, or scream to have more liberty. They are likely learning screaming from you. Stop screaming now. Learn to speak calmly and behave calmly now, before your child is a raging mass of hormones and confusion.
Learn about Adolescence. Then Share With Your Pre-Teen
Read up on adolescence. Read many different sources. Speak to your pediatrician to learn what is normal and what is not normal. If your child has mental or emotional concerns, take them into account.
Knowing how our bodies work is a key to getting through adolescence. Don't use it as a wagging excuse for bad behavior, or to diminish your child's feelings and experiences.
My mother used to say "Oh, you're premenstrual" when I was a teenager. It made me feel ashamed of my body for misbehaving, and frustrated with my mother for her failure to listen to me. Explain to your child before it happens what is going to happen to their body. Explain what is normal, and what is not normal. Know who your kids' friends are and have them over to the house. Learning what is going on with all of the kids will be a good barometer of normal for you later.
Express Your Feelings and Concerns About Your Child Becoming a Teenager to Your Child
One of the kindest acts ever was a parent I am friends with taking out each of their children on a dinner outing alone with only them, their spouse and their child. The purpose of the dinner was to talk about the child becoming a young adult, and leaving their childhood behind. During the course of the dinner, the parents told stories about being a pre-teen, a teenager and the fun and problems that ensued.
Also during that same dinner, feelings were addressed by both parents about what they wanted for their child, and what they feared could happen. It was a pleasant dinner, not done in threatening tones, but done so that the words were said, some boundaries were set, and there was an acknowledgement that this child was no longer a small child. For each of their children, my friend has done this, and all of the children recall their dinner that evening with amazing clarity and love.
Curb Your Tongue Around Your Children
Your children don't need to know all the ins and outs of your adult friendships and relationships. They don't need to know how the romantic life can turn out when it goes badly in a play by play scenario. Children don't need to be exposed to vulgarity or profanity. What they hear is what they learn, what they see is what they learn. Not what you want them to see and hear.
Sarcasm is very prevalent in the world today. That is a shame because it can be very biting and very hurtful. Don't be sarcastic to your children. Your home is supposed to be the safest place in the world for them, a haven that they can come to with their cares and concerns. Not a place where they have to be worried about being demeaned and demoralized of their hopes and dreams. Remember that your children are precious, and they should be treated as such.
I have a friend who has a daughter who is in her mid teens. I do not like to be around her any more because her sarcasm is so cutting and ugly. It literally pains me to hear the words coming out of her mouth. I mentioned it to my friend, and her response was that her daughter is going through a phase, and if we made a big deal of it, she would dig in harder. That is so wrong. It is not healthy for a child to be allowed to embrace negativity as part of their experience of learning how to interact with the world.
Remember that you are a captain of the ship of parenting, and you need to lead your children into having successful relationships. Allowing bad behaviors is not a way to accomplish this.
Set Rules, Limits and Guidelines for Your Adolescent
Being a child is a confusing business. There are all sorts of new things to do and learn. One of the easiest ways to get through the transition of being a teen is to set clear rules and boundaries for your child and...yes, for yourself. Here are some suggestions of rules that worked in households that I am familiar with.
For the kids:
- Establish clothing rules of what is and what is not acceptable or appropriate
- If you tell a child "You are not old enough to wear that" follow up with an age that they are old enough to wear it at. Do not use lines like "When I am dead" or "When you are 35." Be realistic and reasonable.
- Establish curfews and what will happen if a curfew is broken
- Explain what drugs are, what alcohol is, what tobacco products are, and what will happen if your child is caught with these items or uses them.
- If you offer to come and get your child if they are at a place that they don't feel safe, or a place where they or their driver has had too much to drink, don't tell your child that you will come and get them with no questions asked ever, tell them that you will come and get them, and that you will talk with them about it the following morning when you are calm and, if it applies, when they are sober. Don't let you coming to get them be a free pass for bad behavior
- Follow through on your rules. Rules are useless if both sides don't honor and obey them.
For the parents:
- Say what you mean. Don't beat around the bush. Don't be demeaning, but don't speak in parables.
- If you forbid a person from being your child's friend, explain why. Also explain if it is temporary or permanent
- Don't purposely embarrass your child, or say things in front of others to get a rise out of them. You did not like it as a child, and they won't either
- Don't post embarrassing or personal items on their social networks about them, their family or things that they did as children.
- Maintain your personal problems to yourself. Your child is not your close friend, they are your child.
- If you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to reach out to professionals for help. Help is useless if you don't heed the advice, though!
- Encourage your child in their talents and gifts. Praise them for what they are accomplishing. If your child has a talent, let them know how great that is!
- Give and expect respect from your children, and give it as a matter of course, not as a special treat.
- Let your child know that they can come to you with any problems that they are having and you will listen to them. Let them know that you love them.
Praise Your Adolescent for Right Choices
As quick as the world can be to pounce on children when they make a mistake, it is up to us as parents to catch them in the act of doing right and praise that behavior. I gave my son a small $5.00 gift card to a fast food restaurant once because I overheard him helping a friends' mother with her dog mess problem over the phone. (He was offering to clean her back yard of dog waste while she was recovering from a broken arm.)
The card had been unused in my wallet and he loved it. When you catch a child in the middle of doing something great, they feel great because you are paying attention to them.
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