Most parents approach the teenage years with a little bit of dread. The fear of the unknown can be our worst enemy, and fill our mind with questions that are impossible to answer when our children are under 10. Will she be as rude to me as I was to my mum? Will he try drugs or have sex? Will she stop communicating? Will he leave home or drop out of school?
Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of families over the past 18 years I can reassure you that the vast majority of parent’s fears never eventuate. I would like to suggest that the ‘push and pull’ of growing up can be the most fun, exciting and rewarding time of your parenting journey. You get to watch, and mentor, your child as they grow into their own person.
If you are a parent of a pre-teen, why not anticipate that your child’s best years are ahead of them.
Take some time during their upper primary years to lay a good foundation for the upcoming transition. Start things right and there will be a good chance you will come out the other side smiling. With that in mind, here are some of my top tips for preparing yourself and your child for positive teenage experience…
4 ways to prepare yourself (and your child) for the teen years
Seize your window of opportunity
The reality is that we have a window of opportunity to instill values in our children before they become teenagers. I refer to the pre-teen years as their “teachable years”. They are old enough to have mature discussions about puberty, cyber safety, sex and drugs, but not old enough to believe they know everything. Many parents tell me that once their kids hit 13, their teaching opportunities become more limited so get as much in as you can before they clam up!
Prepare yourself for change
They will need you more, and less, all at the same time. Confusing hey?! Let me explain. Teenagers need their parents to be more available and attentive, and less involved in the management of their everyday lives. This is a huge shift for parents and one which some feel happens overnight. It can be really hard on mums who have always packed their child a cut lunch. Make it your mission to meddle (and fuss) less and only focus on what is important for their safety and long-term happiness.
Encourage decision making
The pre-teen years are a great time to teach decision making. You don’t want the first decision your kids make (independently) to be a life-changing one, like “should I get into the car with someone who has been drinking?”. If they have never felt the consequences of little decisions they won’t know how to make big decisions. That’s why THEY choose whether they wear thongs to walk across a hot road or not.
Keep them enrolled in sport
This may seem like weird piece of advice, but I would like to remind parents of the benefits of sport, or any extra-curricular interests for that matter. It is easy to give up on sports before our kids hit the teenage years, but please persist! Not only will sports provide some great health benefits and time away from the internet, but it will also enable them to make friends outside of school. Back-up friends can be really helpful in maintaining a child’s confidence when school friendships are strained.
I really admire mums and dads who are proactive in their approach to the teenage years. I often come across parents of 9-year-olds who are reading books on parenting teenagers and gleaning advise from friends or family who have older children. Brilliant!
If parents go into the teenage years with their eyes wide open, and armed with a few strategies and tips, it’s highly likely they will see parenting through the teenage years as a roller-coaster-like adventure rather than an overwhelming and exhausting grind.