As a parent, life's nothing different from appearing for an exam. Different stages throw different challenges at your face, and you've got to find your way of passing the test. Sometimes you might find it a bit alarming that people who managed Stage 1 (unscheduled crying and poo-poos) and Stage 2 (walking, talking, jumping kid) are dreading the teenage phase.
Stages 1 and 2 are apparently the easy ones. Now that you're there, it won't take you much time to get the "why" part of it. Teenagers are an exceptionally mysterious kind -- most of the times. It's difficult to understand them, which also triggers frustration in you.
As parents, there are a few things leaving you confused and sometimes even hurt. To be able to bring your children up well, without being the clingy parents every child detests, it's essential that you understand their issues before trying to fix them.
They seem to dislike you, and they're moving away even as you try to get closer to them. Relax, this is perfectly reasonable. This doesn't mean that they hate you, but your display of affection especially before their friends might be a little embarrassing to them. They need space and if you give it to them gracefully, you'll notice that they'll stop being distant.
Their priorities change. All of us change and evolve, don't we? As soon as you got married, your partner was your priority, then your children took that spot. Similarly as your kids grow, their friends will be their focus. Let them go.
They have mood swings. If they argue, disagree and even storm off, it doesn't mean you have done something wrong. Blame it to their hormones working overtime and the changes around that cause them to overreact.
They interact with people you don't like. As a protective parent, it might be instinctive for you to protect them from people you feel are a wrong choice, but it's best to leave it to them to make that choice. Asking them to stay away from a bunch of people will only widen the distance between you and your child.
They lie at times. It breaks your heart when your child lies to you. This could have serious consequences if you raise questions without having proof. It's best to approach the topic tactically, encouraging your child to confide in you, without judging them or threatening to punish them.
For teenagers, life is all about a balancing act -- between dependence and independence. While they do depend on you for their basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and of course, pocket money, they like to be given their space and privacy. As parents, you've got to respect that.
Don't Be Clingy
This is one golden rule you should remember. Don't demand to know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. They want to be treated like adults, so give them their space and trust them. There's nothing worse for a teenager than clingy parents!
For teens, being treated like adults means a lot. In a few simple ways, you can give them this luxury. Allow them to help you with decision-making as setting a menu, planning a party, choosing outfits for you and so on. This will make them feel important and needed.
As a parent to a teenager, it's critical that you tune yourself to your changing kid. While it's normal for them to overreact to things, the damage will be irreversible if you do the same. It's best to stay calm and not read into things more than they deserve. It also helps if you're strict but not to the extent that they stop communicating with you. You wouldn't like those snap of ties, would you?
The Red Flag
Teenagers are also vulnerable. They could be going through depression, too. As per research, it is estimated that one in five teens go through depression, and the onset is usually at the age of 14 on an average. In fact, even if everything works out fine, 20-40 percent are likely to experience a relapse in two years. However, the good news is, close to 80 percent of them get treated. As parents, while it's best to avoid being a question bank, there are certain things you need to monitor carefully.
In the U.S. alone, there have been 71 percent of teens who have tried alcohol by the end of high school. That's a pretty big number if you look at it. This is a stage where drinking, smoking and drugs might seem attractive and cool. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean you should stalk them. Instead, look out for restlessness and change in sleeping patterns. If you suspect something, initiate a dialogue.
If you notice that you child avoids company, sounds more irritable, has steadily declining grades and dresses up in a way that makes him/her uncomfortable, you should talk to them about peer pressure and find out if they are being bullied at school. Usually, failure and bullying cause their self-esteem to nosedive, and this could lead to depression.
This should be on your checklist. Numbers suggest that 13 percent of teens have sex by the age of 15. By the time they step out of their troubled teens, seven out of ten experience sexual activities. The U.S. has the highest pregnancy rates compared to Canada or Sweden with 72 of 100 teens being pregnant. It's essential, therefore, that you have the "bees and birds" chat, minus the awkwardness of course.
While mood swings are natural, be on guard if your child escalates it quickly and unreasonably. If he/she resorts to yelling, disrespect or even violence, it's a warning sign. This is when discipline has to be reinstated.
So, it's worth applauding if you can pass the "troubled teens" phase of your child. While it's great to be a concerned parent, too much concern will just escalate all the issues your child is facing during adolescence. Be there as a parent, but try not to overdo it. Steer clear of clinginess at any cost. Be their friend, bond with them, and listen to them without being judgmental. Armed with these points, make teen stage a very good time for both yourself and your child!
Aradhana is a writer from India. Her areas of knowledge include parenting, children with special needs, health and lifestyle. She loves being outdoors and her hobbies include cycling and hiking. She has a special interest in children with special needs and parenting and shares her experiences through her other passion -- that is writing. She writes to share her knowledge so that it may help others. Her posts on these subjects have been published in more than 250+ various reputable sites.