Remember when you were a teenager and said to your mom, “You have no idea what it’s like being a teenager!”? Teens make no qualms about telling their parents how out of touch they are with being a teen. Obviously, it’s because “it’s totally different now than when you were a teenager.” It happens in every generation. Many aspects of teenage angst are the same, but teens today face many new challenges that simply didn’t exist when we were teens. Yet, despite what they say, teens do want you to understand them and the struggles they face.
- Teens Today Can’t Ignore Pressures the Way We Could
All moms were teenagers once. Teenagers today face some of the same issues we faced: dating, curfew, academic and social pressure, parties, drinking, drugs, and bullying. The difference is that teens today can’t escape these pressures the way we could by simply closing the door to our homes, turning off the phone, or letting the answering machine take the calls. Social media, texts messages, and instant messaging bring all these pressures into the formerly safe haven of their homes, their cars, their lives.
Parenting Tip: Please don’t assume things are the same as they were when you were a teenager and talk to your teen about what she thinks is different. Ask her to teach you about strategies she has found to be helpful in coping with difficult situations.
- Social Rejection Is Actually Painful
Teens really care about what their friends think. When they are socially rejected by their peers, recent studies out of UCLA and University of Michigan indicate that social rejection actually registers as bodily injury (or pain) in the brain! So, words CAN hurt as much as sticks and stones! When teens’ friends disapprove, mock, or socially reject them, it can feel worse than a punch in the gut.
Parenting Tip: Please have patience with your teen’s preoccupation with friends. Help her think through social situations, so she can find great friends who treat her well. Allow your teen to balance social time with family time, work time, and alone time. It’s essential for a teen’s development.
- Teens Need Space
Teens need space. They need space to think, to self-regulate, to grow. When you ignore your teen’s need or request for space, he thinks his needs aren’t important to you. When teenagers need space and they aren’t getting it, they will push you away- physically AND emotionally in order to obtain the space they need.
Parenting Tip: If your teen asks for space, it doesn’t mean something is terribly wrong. Teens need time to process their thoughts just like we do. If you can allow them to have time to problem-solve and process a situation, they will be able to better problem-solve as adults.
- Teens Need Praise Just As Much, If Not More Than When They Were Little
Everyone needs praise. Your teen is no different. She needs to hear that her efforts to make good choices are paying off and aren’t going unnoticed. Teens’ self-esteem relies on learning about what they do well, even when THEY have a hard time seeing it.
Parenting Tip: As parents, we need to do a lot of teaching, instructing, and let’s face it: nagging. When you tell your teen what he is doing well, he may be more inclined to continue doing it. You are reinforcing good behavior in the same way you did when your teen was a toddler. When you are being positive with your teen, you may be the only one praising him.
- Teens Are Not Adults
Of course your teen may remind you about how close he is to leaving for college (sniff sniff) and how he can’t wait to move out. However, teens don’t want to be forced to make big decisions in the family like custody issues, financial decision making that affects the family, etc. Teens need to continue to be teens and yes, sometimes make poor choices and have to live with them.
Parenting Tip: Share with your teen information that helps them grow into responsible self-sufficient results, but don’t burden them with your adult issues. They don’t need to have details about your financial struggles or be privy to why you and your spouse are fighting. They have their own stress. They need time to have fun, make mistakes, and simply be a teen. Ask your teen more questions to guide their decision making, rather than giving advice.
- The Tough Stuff
Address difficult issues with your teen. If you don’t bring up important issues, your teen may assume it’s because you can’t handle the difficult situations. Then, your teenager may not think to tell you important information in his life.
Parenting Tip: When you address difficult subjects with your teen, she can learn strategies from you: someone who has survived the difficult situations she is now facing. This creates the positive lifelong process of being able to handle difficult situations appropriately and if they can’t, finding the right people who can help them.