The dimly-lit hospital delivery room bristled with excitement and audible relief when my infant son entered the world, overwhelming me with emotion. Finally, the hours of challenging labor culminating nine long months of pregnancy were over. My eyes, filled with dreams of the years ahead, drank in his every feature in love-filled awe. For me, motherhood had freshly bloomed.
With passing time that sweet baby became a chubby toddler, a preschooler, an older child and then...sigh... a wayward teenager
Teens go through a tumult of physical, psychological, social, and emotional changes as they grow and develop to adulthood. During the process of discovering their own identity and sense of self, they may turn away from the principles and values that have been taught and followed in the home. That can be a tough time for parents. Here are some things I've learned:
Teens need to feel that no matter what mistakes or choices they make during this "growing up" time, they are loved unconditionally.
Make sure they know the rules of the home. Discuss openly and up front what is expected regarding behavior, family responsibilities and interaction, school attendance and homework, social activities and so forth.
When they make mistakes, hold them accountable. Follow through with natural consequences and discipline. Stand by your word. If they learn you say one thing but do another they won't respect you or take you seriously. As a result, your teen will rapidly become out of control.
Pick Your Battles
Teens need to have responsibility over their lives-within reason. Decide what things are most important to you, as a parent, and what things you can be flexible. For example, you are willing to negotiate on the length of your teenage son's hair, but won't budge on his curfew. Decide some of the rules together. When your teen feels they have a say in what they are, they are much more likely to follow them without a fight.
Listen don't Lecture
Learn to be a good listener. Often, if teens have the chance to voice their frustrations and feelings without interruption or constant, critical advice, they will be able to resolve issues on their own. Respect their feelings without trying to change them.
Know Their Friends
Find out who they're spending time with and encourage them to bring their friends over. Be friendly and welcoming. Make your home a place they want to be with things available that hold their interest - games, age-appropriate movies, and lots of snacks!
Make Quality Time
Make sure your teen knows they are important to you. Especially after a conflict and emotions calm down, do something nice for them, compliment any progress they make and reassure them you still love them. Make regular one-on-one time doing something they enjoy.
Know and recognize the warning signs your teen may be in trouble. Change in sleep or diet, falling grades or skipping school, lying, drastic mood swings or uncontrolled anger, secrecy, unexplained disappearances of money or valuable items around the home.
Get professional help, if needed, from a religious leader, a trusted counselor, a medical doctor, or a crisis intervention or treatment program if serious substance abuse or addiction problems arise. Don't wait before a problem escalates out of control.
Learn to Let Go
One of the hardest thing as a parent is to watch your son or daughter make mistakes that could be avoided or choices you know won't bring them long-term happiness. However, stepping back as a parent shows courage and ultimately, your deep love. They must learn, even if it's the hard way.