TBT when you were a teen? Throwback not Thursday and remember the first time you tried to open your locker, liked someone, or went to a dance?
Here are some simple ideas for helping your tween and teen get through the awkward years.
Give them an identity
Everyone wants to be a superhero. Help your teen find his strengths. What is he good at? Everyone has a strength, even if it is playing the nose harp. Your nose harpist might be a budding comedian and fit in nicely in the drama club.
Pump them up
After you find your teen's strengths, create opportunities for success. If your teen is a wanna-be basketball star, help her earn funds to attend basketball camp at a university she would like to attend. Not only does she get to learn new skills and sharpen existing skills, she gets a chance to be seen by the coaches who may be offering scholarships. If your teen's strength is music, find lessons to help him tune-up his skills. If you have an actor, find a play. If you have a scientist, find a science club. Do your best to be there to cheer them on when they try sports, clubs, events or have to make appearances. Volunteer to be a chaperon and participate at school in ways that keep you in the background, but nearby.
Prep your teen for the world of trash talk
Fill teens' self-esteem bank with positive messages. Compliment, compliment, compliment! Honest positive messages go a long way toward promoting more positive behavior and increasing self-worth. Even when a teen's skin decides to keep him humble, you can find something positive to honestly focus on. Perhaps he has a beautiful smile, is healthy and likes to work out, or has a kind and gentle heart. Whatever his strengths, point them out often and honestly.
Never go to battle over a mole hill in a world full of mountains
Avoid picking your teen apart. You will need to have plenty of serious and important conversations. When you want to nag about dirty socks, stop and ask yourself if the smell is more important than the relationship. Give critical feedback carefully. If you are concerned about your teen's personal hygiene, before you lash out, ask questions. Find out what she thinks. Then, offer help and unconditional love. Let the small stuff go, and you will have time for the important things.
Practice being grown-ups together
Before your teen is old enough to date or go out to dinner without you, spend some time practicing. If you don't know how to eat with more than one fork watch this fun video, "How to have Top-Notch Table Manners," and "7 Manners Do's and Don'ts." Make it a fun night with friends. Set formal tables with plastic ware and serve PBJs like you are serving dinner at a Prom. Have fun and learn manners at the same time.
While practicing manners, practice phone etiquette. Cell phones and text messages have changed everything, including phone manners. Here is a little video on how to use your cell phone in public called, "Cell Phone Etiquette 101/eZe Gadgets." Teach your teen how to turn off when appropriate and tune in to her friends.
Make rules a matter of discussion. Although you cannot be flexible on all issues, especially when it comes to safety, engage your teen in family rulemaking. Give her a sense of ownership. Before she ever goes out alone with friends or a date, have conversations about what is the best time to be in, where she is allowed to go on dates and how old she should be to go on a date as opposed to a group date. Always allow her to use you as an excuse if she is uncomfortable or needs to leave a situation. Agree with your teen that you will come at any time she calls for help. Let her tell her friends anytime that her parents said she had to come home. Teens can be cool when they know the rules. Set aside planned time to discuss tough issues like physical intimacy, drugs and alcohol. Listen to their worries and share wisdom in a pleasant setting, before the situations arise and become a crisis. Clear boundaries help teens make good choices.
Slide home safe
Make your home the place to be. Within reason, create a safe, welcoming home for your teens to bring their friends. Try a magic bottomless cookie jar. Keep a jar of cookies always ready with a gallon of milk for drop-ins. Keep snack food, fun games, video games, movies and other activity ideas ready to go when your teen's friends drop by. Your teen is always safer in his own home. It doesn't take tons of money to make tons of fun. One teen threw an end of summer party by dragging furniture donations for a local thrift store outside onto her deck and setting up video games and videos under the stars with a bowl of Oreos and gallons of milk. Eventually, almost 30 teens came, stayed and enjoyed a fun, safe and sober night to remember.
Watch for bullying
Be the fan club
The world can be tough and scary when you realize soon you will be moving away from home. Every teen needs a number one fan and that fan should be you. Remember, your opinion matters. Be a fan who cheers on your teen and gives him confidence.
Being a teen certainly has its challenges but with the support of loved ones, this time can be some of the funnest times of your teen's life.