Are you the parent of a teen or pre-teen? Guiding one’s teen to become a responsible, successful adult is a difficult job. As children grow older and enter middle school many parents provide their youth with too much independence, while others clamp down and micromanage. Neither of these approaches works well, but how do you find a balance? The answer lies in understanding your teen.
Socially, you can expect a teen to spend less time at home and more time with friends. In fact, when given the choice of eating one of their favorite home cooked meals or the opportunity to meet up with friends for a greasy burger many teens will choose the grease. This is a normal and healthy shift in focus for a teen.
Be careful not to make your teen feel guilty. Instead, get to know your teen’s friends by making your home available for gatherings and help him or her set limits on socializing. For example, some parents would say, you are welcome to go out on Friday or Saturday night. You decide.
The cognitive changes that take place with teens are often the most challenging. Once a concrete thinker, your teen is now developing the ability to think abstractly. To simplify things, your teen is now forming his or her interpretations of situations and opinions. This can be scary for parents when their teen expresses opinions that conflict with the values one has worked hard to instill.
Instead of trying to straighten out your teen’s thought process, focus on listening. When parents listen without interrupting, it shows that they value the teen’s perspective, even if they don’t agree. Once a parent has done a good job listening most teens are open to hear their thoughts.
A teen may start communicating differently. My daughter, an elementary student, is eager to share every detail of her day with me. When I ask my high school children about their day I get little information unless something unusual happens, like the library catches on fire. This doesn’t mean that something is wrong. When this happens, don’t make the mistake of grilling your teen for more information because your teen is likely to say less.
What can you do to stay in the loop? Be available and be a good listener. You can also set dates to get together and do things your teen enjoys. Teens are more likely to share while participating in a fun activity. Finally, keep a close eye on your teen’s on-line behavior. The things a teen says and pictures posted online give you good perspective.
If you would like more tips on raising teens attend Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. The class begins on Nov. 4 at Bernard Campbell Middle School from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. For more information visit LSCARES.org or contact Bev Hatley at 816-347-3259.
Kerri Gray is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She teaches educational programs for parents, teachers and students through Lees Summit CARES. She resides in Lees Summit with her husband and four daughters.