Have you ever had the panicked thought, “What am I going to do when my kid is a teenager?” You’re not alone. I know when I hear my 7 year old daughter stomp up the stairs after her request for a later bed time has been denied, I find myself wondering whether I will survive those emotionally charged teen years. The good news is, kids don’t go to bed one night and magically transform into teenagers. So, whether your kids are toddlers, or closing in on those crucial teen years, there’s important steps to take that will help you maintain a healthy relationship with them.
Disconnect to stay connected
Disconnect from the world of electronics. Take a walk with your kids and leave the phones at home, have family dinner together at a table rather than in front of the television. In a world of dominating social media it’s important to disconnect from our devices and create an engaging environment for our children to connect with us. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day, that time can be invaluable.
Be patient and encouraging through their growing pains
While your child may be growing into adulthood in some aspects in life, there may be some areas where they are still having childish tendencies. This is just an unavoidable aspect of those transitional years. As your child grows and matures in their own way, be encouraging to those behaviors and habits that are healthy. On the other end, there might be those days when you are wondering why you still have to remind your 10-year-old son to flush the toilet, for the hundredth time. Responding with patience during those frustrating moments with our kids can build their confidence in the relationship. A parent’s reaction will determine how openly a child will communicate with them, especially when it comes to sensitive issues.
Kids are constantly growing and changing, and I am not just talking about physically. I am talking hobbies, interests, even personalities. One year it might be a Spiderman themed birthday party and the next it could be Pokémon. Walking around playing Pokémon Go, or going to a One Direction concert might not be your ideal past time, but staying involved and knowing what your kids like to do can be a great way to stay close to your child. Don’t let the difference in your interests be a reason not to spend time with them.
Guide them through self reflection
Helping your child navigate through their thoughts and feelings can be a trepid journey. Maybe your child shuts down and doesn’t open up to you when they are upset, or they might show anger or aggression. Helping your kids learn how to cope and communicate their feelings in those emotionally difficult moments as they are growing up can be vital not only when they are teenagers, but through out their lives. As a parent it is important to map out the maze of emotions that our children experience for them. When your child is upset, talk to them, ask them what emotions they are feeling. Help them identify where the emotion is coming from and what can be done about it. This method will help your child to eventually manage their thoughts and feelings on their own.
Truth is, all stages of parenting, from newborn to adulthood, comes with its own difficulties and its joys. While the teenage years are notorious, you and your child have already been through dozens of milestones together. As parents we all know that those years fly by, so enjoy the journey!