10 Things Your Teen Wants You to Know
Raising teenagers is not easy. I once saw in compared to nailing jello to a tree. Yeah, that sums up some days for sure. It is still hard for me to believe that ten plus years ago I had kids in my lap reading them stories.
My heart simultaneously aches and bursts. This stage is hard, even with a strong relationship, and I'm certainly open to tips to make it better. My oldest will be turning 21 this year and I am seeing so much of the teenage angst fall to the wayside. We've had many conversations about life and relationships. The words pour out like a river, like I've just breached a dam waiting to be opened. He has so much to say. And I am glad to listen and brainstorm so I can let you all in on what's going on in their heads.
1. Let conversation happen naturally
As much as we long to know how they're doing, don't force conversation through repetitive interrogation (yeah that's how it feels) Allow conversation to happen out of the blue while engaged in an activity together--driving in the car, cooking dinner, or even shopping. It's possible that the more time spent in each other's space will foster more conversation.
2. Own your mistakes and refuse to be a hypocrite
If teens are blessed with any sixth sense, it's their ability to detect hypocrisy. How many times have you heard "that's not fair!" For that very reason, it's so important for us to admit when we're wrong and offer an apology with a humble heart. They need to see first hand how hard it is to own up to mistakes and also how honorable it is do the right thing. It's also important to share our failures with our sons at appropriate moments--moments when it helps him with whatever he's facing. If our teens see us as real people, they're more likely to respect us and learn from us as well.
3. Be cool
Be laid back but engaged, classy but fashionable-- aware of the latest trends. Be a good host who welcomes his teen friends without critisism. And provide food, LOTS of food, whenever possible!
4. Refuse to micromanage
Even though this involves trust and letting go, it is so important that we give our teen sons incremental freedom and allow them to practice making decisions. Until their choices require a removal of that freedom, refuse to micromanage the details of the things that are their responsibility. This will make them feel respected and convey your belief that they are both capable and trustworthy. This was HUGE for me! I had a hard time letting go because I knew he would make mistakes that would sometimes hurt. This is how we learn to solve problems but it's very hard to watch.
5. Fill your emotional needs elsewhere
We shouldn't look to our teen sons to meet our emotional needs. They were our babies, it's true, and we desire them to reciprocate that love, but acting in a way that obligates them to reciprocate, makes them feel forced, and this actually drives them away. Our lives can now be spent with our partner and spending time with our friends (weekend get away anyone?) We need to loosen and eventually cut those apron-strings allowing them to develop into the independent adults they need to become.
6. Be the kind person you'd like him to marry
It's no surprise that often our sons end up choosing a spouse similar to the woman who raised them. If we care about the quality of our daughter-in-law, we need to focus on growing our own character and embodying the characteristics of the kind of spouse we would want our sons to one day marry. I only have boys and I jokingly told them that I get to pick their spouse so I could finally have a daughter to go shopping with. Even when they were little they said no way! The first time I said this to my oldest he proceded to tell me that he was going to marry two women, everyone naked, and on horseback. We didn't discuss marriage for a while after that!
7. Don't nag
Let's refuse to be the dripping faucet that irritates and annoys our teens. If their behavior must change, natural consequences tend to be the best motivators. I know that is hard but they must be responsible on their own terms. This not only shows our respect and confidence in their ability to make a different choice next time, but also puts the responsibility where it belongs--on them. Never tell them "I told you so" trust me they know they screwed up and they are way harder on themselves then you could ever be. They may not let you see it but trust me, they are aware of the bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. They don't need you making them feel worse because they will transfer the anger at themselves to anger at you and then in their mind it's your fault. Back away.
8. Have interests other than just our teens
We need to resist making our life, as a mom, solely revolve around our teens. It makes them feel like you can't do life on your own two feet, which leads them to lose respect for you. Having some independent interests will help our sons grow healthier relationships, with us and with others. So please, find hobbies, discover new interests, or invest in friendship and service to others--all of which will serve as a good model for how they should do life as an adult.
9. Ask their opinion
As a teen, our sons long to feel important. They want to be heard and know their opinion truly matters. So ask them what they think and be ready to listen! Being an election year my son and I have been talking politics! It is so interesting to hear his point of view because these are big topics. I share my vision and feelings and he does too. It's awesome to see how engaged he is in the way our society works and evolves. I also go out of my way to have him help me with the stuff that he is really good at like computers and such. He helps me with problems and I can see that it is very satisfying for him to see that role reversal. It makes his confidence soar!
10. Be prepared to give them advice
Our teen sons are going to have questions--big ones--about our society, and our world. And when our teens ask, it is so important for us to be prepared to give them an answer that is not fluff. So know where you stand on important issues and back them up. You can't tell him that something is bad and then do it yourself. Know that he is watching you live your life and you are sending a message every day.
I wish you and your teen the best. Enjoy life, it's short!