Tips for Parents of Teenagers: Dont Just Survive - Thrive!

What makes parenting so challenging at times? One widespread research study reports that feeling "unprepared" tops the list for many parents' causes of dissatisfaction. And parents of teenagers, in particular, may feel this acutely as so many changes converge at once: adolescents are changing in every conceivable way while they often push parents away in their search for individuality. That this often happens during parents' own mid-life changes only adds to the poignancy of this period in a family's life.

So how can parents prepare for this dynamic journey? Here are some tips:

Learn about adolescent development

You probably read about babies before your first child was born. You had a pretty fair idea about developmental time frames ? when he would see you in focus, when she would begin to crawl, etc. Adolescents are, in many ways, changing as dramatically as they were as small babies ? and yet many parents don't make the time to learn about what is happening developmentally to their teenager. Information and knowledge will shed light on this puzzle, and it will enhance your understanding and your ability to provide support.

Here's an example: Teenagers may look like adults, but they are not. Their brains are still under development, which causes them to be more impulsive, more spontaneous and developmentally not ready to foresee the consequences of their actions. Knowing this - and knowing that developmentally they are not ready for certain levels of responsibility- can help you better manage your expectations and your relationship.

Put YOU into the equation

The issues that really get intense for parents aren't always about the teenager ? sometimes, parental issues are at the heart of the situation, and adults need to be able to separate this out and view the situation objectively. Remember, you are changing and developing too, and redefining the nature of your relationship with your teenager can bring up issues for you. It is imperative that parents examine themselves, their behavior, objectives and beliefs in the context of their family dynamics.

It is too easy to be habitual in our responses to children. Yet, you can see the growth and changes that are occurring with your teenagers ? they are changing in dramatic ways. It stands to reason, then, that parents need to examine the rules, roles and relationships to make sure they're adjusting for all this change. That requires self-examination.

Talk to your peers

Many parents find themselves feeling alone, and in their alone-ness they lose the ability to see the similarities in their experiences with those of other parents. There is so much you can gain by talking to other people in the same situation you are in. In sharing with others you gain additional perspective, and you are likely to see things in a new light. You may find others who have walked your road and who found other, or better, ways to address similar situations. Allow yourself to learn from them. Develop these friendships and make time to connect with them. Think of it as your own support network where "getting prepared" is one of the beneficial outcomes.

Find the humor

Have you ever noticed how humor can make tension instantly melt away? Some parents just tend to take things too seriously. Consciously look for the humor in situations because it allows you to create an environment of lightness and an attitude where communication is likely to be enhanced. Used appropriately, humor is a tool and a friend.

Take care of yourself

Sacrificing yourself to your children's needs serves nobody ? certainly not you, and it actually does a disservice to kids. They benefit from seeing parents as strong, fulfilled individuals who take good care of themselves, and you need nothing less if you are to thrive and grow.

Dr. Laurence Steinberg in his book Crossing Paths; How Your Child's Adolescence Triggers Your Own Crisis says that the parents who thrive during their child's adolescence have genuine and fulfilling interests outside of their parenting role. There is room for family life and career or other outside interests, and those who thrive are people who have both in balance.

Be open to learn from others.

Every day parents are given opportunities to prepare and to learn to be better as parents. Yet many times adults squander the opportunities put in front of us. It's easy to criticize how others handle situations with their teenagers, but if instead, you ask the question "what would I do in that situation?" you can create opportunities to prepare yourself for what you may face. Parents of teenagers are likely to find themselves in situations that are unpredictable. Sometimes kids do crazy things. But if you get in the habit of promoting open-mindedness, and of asking questions and getting facts before you react, you will behave in ways that don't embarrass you during a time of crisis. Parents can develop their own strategies by asking themselves "what would I do?"

Get involved in your child's school life and social life Some parents pull away from their kids during adolescence. Granted, this may seem like what your teen is asking for, but it's not. The character of your involvement may change during this time, but by all means stay connected in meaningful ways. One big way is to know your child's friends. This not only brings pleasure into your life, but it allows you to know more about your child, and from a different perspective.

There's a lot about this stage in a family's life that can create pressure and challenges. Probably only a few escape without a scar or two. It is also a time that is ripe with opportunities for growth for parents - so don't be left behind. There is opportunity for you to thrive as you grow, too.

Sue Blaney Copyright 2004

Sue Blaney is the author of Please Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride and Practical Tips for Parents of Young Teens; What You Can Do to Enhance Your Child's Middle School Years. As a communications professional and the parent of two teenagers, she speaks frequently to parents and schools about parenting issues, improving communications and creating parent discussion groups. Visit our website at http://www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com

In The News:

More effective parenting  Rising Kashmir
Editorial: Parenting Michelangelo  Gold Country Media
Parenting Across Cultures  Psychology Today
A guide to parenting fat kids  todaysparent.com
Parenting during the ongoing pandemic  Minnesota Public Radio News

Pet Loss Can Be Just As Devastating!

'And all because of a damned cat! It's only a... Read More

My Best Buddy

My son, Dakota is now 7 yrs old. He is... Read More

Effects of Jealousy on Childs Personality

Dear friends here we will charge up our mind with... Read More

Intermission: Wood Chips

I wanted to share with you one of the most... Read More

Effective Troubled Teen Programs

Not all parents subscribe to the notion of "tough love,"... Read More

You Make Me Sick And Other Things Parents Say in Anger

Maryann is so focused she's blind. She's slipped over the... Read More

While You Have the Time, Take the Time

Here in Kansas, where we live, the leaves are turning... Read More

Discipline on My Mind

I look out of the window as I am writing... Read More

Why Mother?s Day is Important For Children

Mother's Day is important for children.This Mother's Day take note... Read More

Childs Play: Treating The Insanity of the Mental Health System

In today's mental health system there is a pattern of... Read More

Friendships - Helping Children Develop Friendship Skills

Reasearch into children's friendships shows that those children who are... Read More

Homeschooling Takes Your Child Out of Public School --- A Unique Benefit

Home-schooling removes children from public school. That alone makes home-schooling... Read More

The Secrets To Improving Childrens Behaviour

Most parents at some stage are driven to distraction by... Read More

Public School Sex-Education Classes --- Bad News For Parents and Children

One of parents' most important duties is to protect their... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: 7 Tips for Back to School Success

Blink. That's all we did, blink, and summer is ending... Read More

Because Every Child Is A Born Genuis

Graphology for Child development.:- Graphology is the science of understanding... Read More

Childhood Obesity & Parents Healthy Food Confusion

Many parents struggle to know which foods are healthy for... Read More

Parenting Confidence - Who Needs It?

It used to strike me as odd - but really,... Read More

Meeting The True Needs of Children Diagnosed As ADHD

How should one look upon Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)... Read More

Stop Lying NOW

Do you have a consistent problem with your child lying... Read More

5 Tips For Talking To Your Children About What They See In The News

Mommy (Daddy), Why do those people want to hurt everyone?Last... Read More

How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children

Under the "No Child Left Behind Act," public schools whose... Read More

Crazy Colors Fun Kid Experiment as a Party Activity

Here is an easy, inexpensive and fun kid experiment for... Read More

Will My Child Ever Out-grow His Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

If your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder then at... Read More

The Worlds Greatest Dad

You are in the final round of your favorite game... Read More