The teenage years don’t have to equal an alien invasion into your home. So many changes happen in our child’s mind and body during the teenage years and we need to be educated and prepared to help them walk their individual path of growing into adulthood. Many times how we respond to these changes sets the stage for the atmospheric conditions in our family.
Life is a stage in this season with drama dancing across it regularly. As parents, we get to choose whether to react or respond. There is a calculated difference. When we react, our emotions take a central role. When we respond, we use reasoning and thoughtfulness. The difference usually equals time and patience. It may include leaving the room for a minute or thirty.
Life may be more dramatic with a female during the teenage years. Consider keeping a calendar of her menstrual cycle so you’re aware of when “those days” are coming. You can also forewarn the men in your family on the “extra grace needed” days. But, this only gives reason, not excuse, for attitude issues. Your daughter remains responsible for her words and actions and doesn’t have permission to be rude or disrespectful. An art to teach and we must set the example.
Boys tend to grow their buck antlers during the teenage years. They may become more independent and less open to sharing their life. Conflict with their father figure may increase as they naturally prepare to leave the nest. Give them space, but continue to press-in and be the loving, caring, interested mom they need.
If your teenager changes and becomes a person you hardly recognize, remember your responsibility and authority as a parent hasn’t changed. Household and family responsibilities should increase, not decrease during this time. Don’t avoid requiring their help because they are difficult. Consequences should continue on an appropriate level. If a cell phone is the culprit for negative issues, remember you own that phone which means it is a privilege, not a right. Take it away for a time-out if necessary – they won’t die and life will go on. Slamming a bedroom door, abusing time in the bedroom, hosting friends in the bedroom that go against family policy are all cause for consequence. Bedroom doors have hinges and can be removed for a time. It won’t be pretty, but these reminders will instill the truth that it is your home and you are in charge. Creative teenage consequences should be carried out with kindness and firmness – not ugly with yelling and words you wish you could retract. They will push your buttons – be ready.
During the teenage years at our house, we began using contract agreements to navigate changes in rules and guidelines. We wanted them to be part of making the new rules so we could refer back to them when challenges arose. We made use of the family meeting and discussed options about phone rules, curfew guidelines, ongoing chores, etc. Once we settled on the current plan they signed the contract in agreement. There was our plumb line in writing, co-authored and signed by the teenager.
Speaking of cell phones. Don’t let them run your life with your teenager. There are helpful parental controls today that allow you to set time limits on usage. Use them. Once you have decided on the rules together, set the controls accordingly. Make sure you see more than the tops of their heads each day. The drama of too much time on social media and texting breeds co-dependency.
Your teenagers will struggle with the desire to stay under your protective covering one second and fighting to be on their own the next. Make it your focus to maintain relationship with these ever-changing people; no matter what stage of craziness they are experiencing. They need you to be their rock-solid cornerstone. They need you to be healthy and confident in yourself and not expecting them to meet your needs.
As a mom of teenagers and beyond, my motto was and is to be available and “be there”. As your children grow-up their needs and neediness will be fewer and farther between, so it’s easy to move on in life and not stay tuned in. They still and always need us to be their mom and be available. We must be their biggest fan. Go to their events; even when they say you don’t need to attend. Even though you may be tired and just want to sit at home on the sofa. Be there – you’ll be glad you did. Be that obnoxious paparazzi mom. They may act like you’re weird, but in reality they will appreciate it, while their self-esteem is built knowing you think they’re amazing and you want the world to know.
Believe me, when your nest is empty you’ll have plenty of time to sit on the sofa and catch-up on your shows or rest. You won’t want to sit there wishing you hadn’t missed those special occasions.
There is no better time than now for a refresher course in your teenager’s love language. Ask them to take the survey again so you know how to effectively love them. The survey can be found online. Another idea is to have your family take the Myers Briggs personality test for a new level of understanding of each other. It may help you relax a bit about kids who spend more time in their room than with the family, once you discover they are an introvert and the behavior is normal. Do you have a teenager that can’t be roused in the morning, yet you regularly find them in your bed chatty and ready to talk about life at 10 pm while you’re dozing off? This teenager is probably an extrovert and also a night owl. Having an understanding of the various personality types will go a long way in achieving grace for one another.
Teenagers need to be reminded regularly that your love is unconditional and not based on what they do or don’t do or how they look or what they achieve in life. Tell them in each crisis that every little thing is gonna’ be all right. They need to hear this and you should be the first in line to say it.
Pray for wisdom in understanding and loving your teenager:
Proverbs 2:4 (NIV)
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure”