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Tips For You and Your Teen On How to Navigate The Middle School Years!
I am sure that I speak for a lot of parents that when you meet your children for the first time you can't help but to map how you are going to raise them. It seems so easy when you are holding this new life to see their future. While small children often have strong opinions about many things they are often easily managed. If they don't like veggies you can hide them in their food or drink, you can often distract them from their chosen path, and if you can't change their minds timeouts are often the end of the world for these little guys and gals. When they are little you and daddy are the smartest people in the world. All I can say is enjoy this time because eventually they grow up and change into teenagers.
As a mother to a teenage son and a pre-teen girl I often think to myself who are these people and where are my babies. In addition to all the physical changes that occur during these years there are also a lot of personality changes. What once was a easygoing child is now a moody child, a child who once was a pleasant early riser is now a candidate for exorcism, and don't even think about telling these creatures they are wrong. One of the teachers that I work with at the middle school often says "If you don't like to ride in the front of a roller coaster don't teach teenagers or have kids." This is an accurate description of life with a teenager.
I have found that not only as a parent but a teacher of teenagers that you and your teen both can survive this roller coaster ride by implementing the following tips:
TIP ONE: ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE THE PARENT AND THEY ARE THE CHILD. This is something I have found to be a big problem with teenagers. Often times parents feel that because their child has reached teen years that you should become a friend first and parent second. This never works, even though your child is maturing on the outside they simply don't have the wisdom or experience to make adult decisions. It is ok to be a friend to your teenager and talk openly and honestly with them. However, you still need to be a parent first and friend second. Don't be afraid to set boundaries and tell them NO! They may hate you for a moment but they will thank you later in life. As a teacher in the middle school I see everyday the effects of children who have parents as friends. They fear no consequence from anyone and it goes with out saying that these children often stray down a bad path. Kids want parents and they want boundaries. When you tell them no it lets them know that you care and know what is going on with them.
TIP TWO: BE A PART OF YOUR CHILDREN'S LIFE. Often I find it is hard to put myself in my kid's life. They either don't want you to butt in or you really don't find Top 40 music that soothing. But do it anyway, even though your teen may tell you to go away a lot of times it means they want you to be there for them. Make time to just talk with your teen. For my son and I we spend 30minutes every night before he goes to bed just talking. What is he reading, who is dating who, how are his friends doing in school, if there are any problems in school etc. Teens just want to know that they are being heard. Also, try and find a hobby or a tv show that you both can enjoy together and make this time special for both of you everyday.
TIP THREE: LIMIT TECHNOLOGY. This is a huge problem in my mind the amount of time kids spend on computers, gameboys, texting, etc. In my ever humble opinion, the teens of today spend way tooooo much time with these gizmo's and gadgets. They don't need I phones, I Pods, twelve different gaming systems and a computer. It has been shown in studies that the human brain is still developing during the teen years and all this stimulation can cause negative effects on the developing brain. Not to mention that the amount of crap that just exists on the internet alone. Remember these items are meant for adult use and should be supervised when children use them. I have met many teens that can't write a complete sentence without using text abbreviations. They know more about sex, and sexting than I know now at 40. Teens often think that they can handle this information just because they read a facebook post about it, or heard it in a chat room. Children at this age don't have the wisdom, or experience to discern negative situations. If your child needs a cell phone get one with out picture or texting features. Monitor how much time they spend on playing games and what games they are playing. Teens don't need facebook pages. Unfortunately, having a facebook account can open your child up for cyberbullying. They may think you are strict but when they hear at school how someone was trashed, that they know,all over the internet they can feel safe and knowing that no one can hijack their facebook page.
TIP FOUR: BE HONEST WITH YOUR TEEN. Teens like to be treated like adults in regards to information. Be honest and open with your teen. If you are honest with them they are more likely to be honest and open with you. Part of growing up is realizing life isn't always fair and life can be really hard. Don't sugar coat issues. If your teen asks about something, always be age appropriate, but be honest. If your teen, has acted in a mean, rude or inappropriate manner be honest. Explain, why what they did is wrong, how it effects others and why you are giving them certain consequences. If it is a question about sex or life in general be honest. If you don't know find out together. If a situation arises that you can personally relate to share the story with them and what the consequences of your actions were as an adult, be them good or bad. They will see you as a person and realize that you too were once a teen and went through the same things they are going through.
TIP FIVE: ALWAYS LOVE AND ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN. This is so important. Teens at this age are very insecure and confused. There are so many things that are out there that can hurt them. More so now than when I was a teen. Sure there were bullies, but they didn't have access to the world wide web, there were no cell phones that could send ugly pictures to the entire world, you didn't have to worry about someone shooting up the school etc. With all these things going on your teen needs to know that they matter to you. That while you may not like them you will always love them no matter what. Encourage them in all things. The good, bad and ugly. Teens really want to know that someone is rooting for them. Encourage them to reach high, to the best they can, to put themselves in the other person's shoes and to dream. And just remember, that the teen years don't last forever.