Parents are the most important influences in the lives of their kids, regardless of whether their child is a toddler or teen. We know that younger children need us, but do parents really matter to their adolescent children?
There are so many myths about teenagers that are just not supported by the facts. The teen years are generally not a time of turbulence and troubles. Most adolescents don’t have bad relationships with their parents, or abuse drugs and alcohol. While it is true that beginning around age 12 kids generally spend less time with their parents, it isn’t until middle adolescence (around age 15) that kids slowly and appropriately disengage from their families.
Parents who spend time with their teenagers are more likely to raise competent, caring, and well-adjusted kids who successfully navigate the path to independence. How can you stay connected with your child as she asserts her individuality? Here is what teens want from their parents.
- Communicate. Avoid both lecturing and interrogating. Permit yourself to suspend judgments and try to understand a world that is so very different than what you experienced. I’ve found that teens are really interested in our lives, so be prepared to talk about work and personal things that are important to you.
- Have a teen friendly house. Be nice to your teen’s friends when they come over. Don’t intrude in their activities, but introduce yourself, ask questions, and be certain to have lots of food in the refrigerator.
- Stay involved in school activities. Volunteer at school, and be certain to attend your teen’s sporting or other events. Don’t whine about the length of a soccer match. In a few years, you’ll miss those games.
- Maintain family traditions, but make adjustments. Rituals are the emotional glue that connect us. Don’t give up on those habits, but be flexible in adjusting them to your adolescent’s interests. Bring a friend along during the family vacation. Eat meals together. Visit relatives often.
- Search for shared interests. Constantly look for opportunities to do things together, such as shopping, attending sporting events, travel, movies, or attending a car show. While family time is important, it is also absolutely critical for a teen to have alone time with each of her parents.
- Encourage your child’s passions. Each of my children developed interests that were so much different than my own. I interpreted that as a sign that maybe I did something right in encouraging their individuality.
- Lighten up. This is most important during the adolescent years. Develop a good sense of humor. Don’t take everything so seriously. In a few years, your young adult will no longer be with you. Enjoy today.