If you have a teenager, you may be experiencing what most parents are:
Where’s the connection
They don’t like me
I don’t like them anymore
No doubt, there’s a host of other reactions you have that are typical among parents of teens.
But teenagers are savvy, opinionated, pushing limits, and finding their own way – aren’t these the things we try to return to when we’re adults? If we can provide a stable, secure home, where we seek understanding and connection over being right and controlling, we may find the teen years are the most enjoyable yet.
But this short season of life is the very last stop before they leave the safety of home and childhood and embark on “adulting.” Learning the significant shifts and changes, you can not only make this season memorable for everyone, but lay a path for their future that is strong and secure.
Teenage Girl Tips
In my experience with clients, and watching what happens on social media and in real life public places, teenage girls are battling several things at once.
Their brains are developing in ways they aren’t always sure of how to navigate.
They are now more aware of their bodies- not just in style and fashion, but also the power they wield in society through attraction. Or, conversely, they also feel the stinging insecurity of not measuring up, not being admired or considered for a Friday night date.
In general, I see moms making 5 common mistakes with their teenage girls.
1) They unknowingly criticize
2) They see them through their own filter of fear
3) They continue to parent as they did when the daughter was younger. Most parents are unaware of the psychological and physiological changes in the brain of teens. For example, the brain from the age of 13-21 is honing itself, getting rid of unused space and cells, sloughing off and getting ready for a faster, more complete brain by 22-24. They aren’t the same people they were even just last year. Find and read brain books or webpages like this devoted to helping people understand the teen brain. Then come back here and learn how to bring it all together, and actually implement changes to your relationship and home.
4) They don’t prepare them with everyday skills needed once they leave home. From cooking, cleaning, and laundry, to finances, paying bills, using credit and choosing men. This is prime time of life to invite the girls in and show them what will serve them for a lifetime. This is a time for teaching a different topic each month, so they can master the basics to sustain themselves just in case they don’t make enough money to hire a maid. 😉
5) They yell at them. Teen girls are extraordinarily amazing pre-women. Think of it as laying a foundation for life. If they don’t learn it now, they’ll learn it during college or when they have their first real career job. That timing is often too late or they learn things as needed instead of really being able to create systems and understand a bigger picture of how the basics are part of creating a life.
Teen boys are in a similar boat brain wise – again, sloughing off the cells not being used (hello video games) and keeping the ones that are useful and in play. But boys are a bit different and how these years look for them can surprise many.
Here are 3 Things You May Not Realize About Teen Boys
- They aren’t in the same place psychologically as girls. While we see their bodies grow quickly, we make assumptions that they are as ready as the girls to take on the world, and it’s just not true. Teen boys are often 1-2 years behind the girls in their emotional development. It’s best to take each boy at his own pace.
- They don’t need to “man up” . Teen boys are sorting for themselves what it means to be a man. Instead of telling them to man up or other expectations, shift to supporting them through asking questions, or supporting their interests. Allowing young men to unfold in their own way creates strong connection.
- Their bodies need huge amounts of sleep, and food. The end.
- They still need their moms (and dads). Allowing space for them to choose to interact, instead of demanding interaction, is key for keeping connection with teen boys. Trust that they still do very much need you. If you allow the freedom to not HAVE to talk to you or open up, chances are when you’re doing the dishes by hand, they will.
- They are pre-men. Compliment them. Tell them the amazing things about them. Let them know beyond their accomplishments you think they are brave, kind, smart, and a great friend. Sometimes, I would tell Jordan, my son, “I like you”. He replied, “You’re my mom, you have to like me”, and I said, “No, I have to love you. I don’t have to like you. I just really do.”
So, clearly, if you need “teenagers help”, there are a few questions to ask yourself first to figure out what’s happening. So many times parents come to me and they aren’t actually clear on what their looking for. Sometimes its because they don’t know. Other times it’s “Just fix my kid.”
So let’s go through some ways to think about what is really needed before we waste time online and getting sidetracked. This way, you’ll have a clear question formed and those are always the best at getting answered. 😉
Do you need help with household routines? Often parents struggle with chores not being done, kids not getting up for school on time, or not hav
Do you need help with motivation? It can be look like them spending too much time in their rooms, or too much screen time. It can be no desire to work, or help around the house.
Do you need help with big topics like sex, drugs, porn, or dating? If we don’t address these now, we set them up for a lifetime of self-help and therapy.
Do you need help with boundaries, respect, issuing consequences?
What’s your goal of raising teens?
To get them out of the house and into college?
To get them out of the house in one piece?
Before we go much further, it’s safe to say that what your goal is in raising teenagers, really does matter. It will shape how you see them, how you interact with them, and how effective you are.
So, think about it: What’s your goal?
My ultimate goal was to raise a young man who was self sufficient in practical ways, socially and emotionally intelligent, able to negotiate conflict and communicate his opinion and wants, experience a wider view of the world, speak a foreign language, have basic financial competency and stay connected to family.
Because I was really clear about all this, it guided me through all 4 years of college – leading up to a senior year. That was his make it or break it year – I didn’t engage in telling him to get up for school, wash clothes, or do homework. He had to pay rent to me (one week’s worth of allowance). He had to keep up his grades, and figure out how to make money since much beyond gas money was no longer available to him.
I didn’t do it with a vengence, or a “I hope you fail” heart. We set it up together, negotiating what the expectations were and the heart behind it: Learn under my roof – not once you leave.
The result? He graduated salutatorian of the class, chess champion of the school, started his own video business, and ended up NOT going to college and attempting a gap year instead.
When he left, he realized he had every skill he needed to try a new life on a completely different coast on his own – and succeed. After a year, he landed a job but decided to come home because the lack of support and family was no longer the life he wanted. He felt connected enough, and safe enough, to come home and figure out next steps.
Parenting Today’s Teens
The truth is, by the time we have teens, we are in the marathon phase of parenting. Most of us are in our careers full time. We are eyeing the nest emptying, and the shift of mid-life coming full steam ahead.
While we are facing our own seasons, we are simultaneously dealing with their erratic behavior, emotions, questions, situations that come from nowhere, sport events, work schedules. It’s a chaotic time for a household- and that’s if there’s no crisis, health issues or job losses.
Parenting today’s teens requires a different perspective.
It involves understanding their brain development so great choices can be laid out for them – and boundaries created to protect them.
It involves a different way of interacting… in my book Momifesto, I cite a study from Berkeley that discusses the link between connection and addiction. Since then many studies have proven links between safe, emotional connection lighting up the same reward centers as drugs. It’s pretty astonishing how powerful genuine connection is to teens. Just when we think they don’t need or want us, if we’ll be there a bit “on demand” they will connect freely, possibly avert addictions, and we’ll have a family life we thought wasn’t possible.
Parenting teens today demands that we take nothing personally. It’s really hard when we want to connect with kids who were just 5 years old yesterday, to not take their rejection personally when they don’t want to be with us at the coffee shop, buying their clothes, or no longer confiding in us as they once did. It hurts. Yet, they are reacting to their own inner worlds, trying to find themselves, and new ways of dealing with us. Let them have their space, and cherish the times and places they choose to be with you. Outside of depression, which every parent should screen for, allow kids their space, invite them to share but don’t demand, and believe in them relentlessly especially when they don’t believe in themselves.
It demands we take everything personally. Wait what? So, the adolescent years require that we realize the powerful influence we have (not necessarily control) and step up in our homes. Not as rulers, but as servant leaders – listening, watching, giving, and influencing through modeling and kindness. Of course there are to be rules and consequences – but we aren’t to take the kids’ violations of them personally. And the consequences can be doled out matter of factly and with great love.
The truth is, the adolescent years are the ones where everything in you is tired and wants to give up, and yet we are on the final stretch of Mt. Everest and a sherpa has an oxygen tank for you saying “Almost there!” Use these last few years as intentional opportunities to create connection, build family unity, teach household skills, and create family memories before they leave.
Because the truth is, days can feel like years, but very often the years disappear like a day. Don’t let the chaos of the highs and lows throw you. Instead, expect them, like a surfer riding waves. Be the one stable place for them to count on – emotionally stable for them as their world is shifting like sand beneath them.
And the end result, I can almost pinky promise you, is that you will have a family that comes home over and over to spend time with you, because you provided a home of love, connection, and profound acceptance for them as they are.
Find more help in my book Momifesto: 9 Practices for Phenomenal Moms on Amazon!