My Top 10 Tips for Coping with Teenagers
Being a Mum to a sixteen year old son, I feel as though I have a few years experience of dealing with all aspects of the teenage ups and downs, of which there are many! I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination and I still get it wrong all the time as my son brings me fresh new challenges to deal with, but there are certain things I’ve learned along the way that help and don’t exasperate situations.
People often tell us that as our children get older they “get worse not better”! We don’t believe them of course. Not when we have adorable little sons and daughters who are a delight to be around (most of the time) and who love us to bits! But let me tell you….. it does!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ALL bad. Teenagers are incredibly fun to be around, make no mistake. I’ve had the best laughs in recent years with my son…. we definitely have the same silly sense of humour and are on the same wavelength in many ways! We can have good, mature chats (when he’s in the mood), he’s a great help to me around the house (again, when he’s in the mood), he babysits his younger siblings and can generally be witty and wonderful. But sadly, with teenagers, there is a flip side and the changes in personality and mood swings can be extremely difficult to not only come to terms with, but to handle! So I’ve put together my top tips to help you when things aren’t running smoothly.
1. KEEP THEM CLOSE – I believe this is THE most important thing you can do. It’s very easy when your child gets into the teenage years to believe they need space. And they do to a certain extent but don’t give them too much. Yes they are growing up, but they’re still immature and can easily lose their way. I liken it to a little bird who is attempting to fly the nest for the first time, awkward and unsure. This is a time when your child needs you more than ever. Try to do as much as you can with them and include them in everything that’s going on with the family. Make them stay downstairs with you for longer periods instead of being shut off in their room (which they tend to do), if this is difficult suggest doing something they like, even if it’s putting on a film/tv programme they enjoy.
2. DON’T NAG – Resist the temptation. I have discovered that the more I drone on and think I may be getting somewhere with my great speech…. in reality, teenagers just shut down and won’t be taking any of it in. They drift off and lose all interest after the moaning has gone on for more than a couple of minutes, meaning it’s a complete waste of time. Be direct and to the point, then leave it.
3. CHAT – The trick to keeping the communication going is to try and be very open. Talk about anything at all to your teenager, tell them things about you and you may find they do the same. Ask them about their day, not necessarily how the biology class went but what they did at lunchtimes, how their friends are. Constantly ask questions and show an interest. When they talk to you, show enthusiasm, even when they’re talking a load of nonsense, make time to listen. Tell them you love them, always, and praise them for their achievements and good behaviour.
4. ACCEPT THE DIFFERENCES – As hard as it may be, things have changed and your relationship isn’t going to be the same. As they grow, you need to too. Accept that your child may not have the same opinion as you and you won’t have as much control over what they do, who with and when… I think I found this the hardest thing to come to terms with as my son got older. You can still have an input, an important one and it’s imperative they listen to you, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t agree with you. They are their own person so pushing your own ideals onto them and expecting them to do things your way all the time will only lead to conflict. And sometimes allowing them to do things their way can have a very positive outcome.
5. DON’T RETALIATE – When your stroppy teenager is going off on one because something isn’t going his/her way it can be so easy to get into an argument, I know because I’ve done it so many times. But it doesn’t help, it makes things much worse and half the time they’ll end up saying very hurtful things that they don’t mean, in order to win the argument. Which they must do, as far as they’re concerned. Try to stay calm and use some bargaining skills instead, something along the lines of… if you keep this up then you won’t be doing X……. or threaten to take away certain privileges. Quite often they will pretend not to care what you say or do, but believe me, they often change their ways when the prospect of having their precious phone confiscated is imminent!
6. FOLLOW THINGS THROUGH – Very important. If you threaten to take away the phone – do it. Don’t feel sorry for them afterwards when they apologise, when they beg and plead for it back. Give them a timescale, even if it’s for a few hours and stick to it. If you give in, they lose respect and won’t take you seriously next time.
7. PICK YOUR BATTLES – An obvious one, but try not to nit pick over every little thing. The more you do this, they less they’ll take notice of you when you need to discipline over the more serious issues.
8. DON’T HOLD A GRUDGE – There will be times when your teenager will drive you crazy but however rude they’ve been or however much they’ve angered you, try your best to brush it off once things have calmed down and open up the communication channels again. The chances are your teenager will be embarrassed or feel guilty, so don’t mention the argument again, or he/she is likely to blow up again. Be nice and carry on as normal, ask if they want a cup of tea, what do they fancy for dinner – just normal stuff.
9. KEEP THEM IN – Not an easy one and I don’t mean all the time, but don’t feel bad about not allowing them to go out to every gathering/party. Your teen will try every trick in the book to get their own way, telling you that all their friends are allowed to do this and all their friends are allowed to go there. No they’re not. Teenagers can be very persuasive but letting them out all the time to roam around aimlessly, I believe only leads to trouble. Make sure you know where they are going and who they’re with. Compromise by allowing friends to come over to your house more. This works well. As my teenager has got older and the worry about things like alcohol and other things became more apparent, I have banned him from sleeping over at friends houses unless it’s a special occasion and I’ve spoken to the parents. Ensuring my son comes home after a night out and/or collecting him from wherever he’s been, even if it’s very late, gives me peace of mind. He’s usually happy to do this if it means he can go out.
10. BE VIGILANT – I’m like a bad smell around my teenager! He says I’m overprotective and I know I get on his nerves at times but I know that deep down he appreciates it. Plus, certain events would’ve gone by unnoticed and maybe would’ve escalated had I not been on the ball. Be nosey. Get to know their friends, have their numbers in your phone, just in case. As far as social media is concerned, lecture them on the dangers and demand to know their passwords for everything, at least in the early teenage years. Be their friend on Facebook (or Snapchat, which seems to be the new favourite), follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t leave them alone with a laptop for hours without having complete access to overlook what they’ve been doing. Have a rule….no passwords, no tech. And listen to your gut instincts, if you think there might me something wrong, you’re probably right.
And remember, these years pass in the blink of an eye, if your teenager is proving to be a handful just try and be supportive and not take things they say too seriously, it’s a phase and they will come out of it a better person the other side, hopefully! Try and embrace the changes and have fun with them… if you can 🙂