When the teenage years hit, it seems as if things will get easier. Potty training is a thing of the past. It is no longer necessary to provide constant entertainment. They sleep through the night. Teens can help out with a lot more around the house. They don’t need to be chauffeured around all the time, or won’t need parental assistance in that area soon enough when they are able to get behind the wheel on their own. They can communicate a lot more. Parents might even find that they might even share a few interests with their adolescent child. What better time to start treating this new found young adult as an equal, right?
Just like infancy, the toddler years, and childhood, adolescence isn’t always a pleasant endeavor. Pubescent hormones have a tendency to create issues all around for teens, their families, and their peers. When these mood swings strike, it may be tempting to let a teen do as they please in order for a parent to save face with their adolescent child. There are a few reasons why this is not the best solution.
- This may make the parent seem as though they can be taken advantage of and be manipulated. Manipulation is not a skill parents should be encouraging.
- Boundaries are incredibly important during these years. Roles need to be clearly defined in a relationship. It needs to be known that the adult is still in charge and makes the rules and that the child is expected to follow them. Rules are vital to teaching teens morals and guidelines. They can even help instill common sense in a person. Rules aren’t in place to annoy children. They are there to keep children safe and to promote good behavior that will benefit them for their entire lives.
- If a parent lets a teen get away with whatever they want, the teen may feel like their parent doesn’t care what they do or how they feel. Constant consent may unintentionally come across as a way to get the teen out of their parent’s hair. If the child is under the impression that they are a burden, not only will that damage their already fragile ego and self-esteem, but it will more than likely prevent a teen from going to a parent should they ever need any help or guidance. Placation may actually push them further away at a time when a parent wants and needs their teens to be close. With all the pressures and troubles teenagers face today, parents need to be able to be a confidant to their teens in order to steer them in the right direction, whereas a peer attempting to give advice may be more inclined to pressure the teen into doing the exact opposite of what a parent would want them to do.
- Allowing a teen to do as they please discourages the development of self-control and can prohibit moral development. When left to their own devices, what are the odds of a teen making good choices without any guidance? The area of the brain responsible for forming judgement and controlling impulses is called the prefrontal cortex. This part may not finish developing until as late as in a person’s mid-twenties. The pleasure and reward seeking part of the brain is called the nucleus accumbens, which develops sooner than the prefrontal cortex. These development rates may explain why teens will act on getting what they want, regardless of what it takes to obtain their desire.
For obvious reasons, parents shouldn’t try to seem more like a friend or as a “cool parent” by condoning activities like drugs, smoking, or alcohol. Not only are these experiences unhealthy (which alone should be enough reason not to allow them), but they are illegal too. Encouraging a possible addiction is a bad idea as well. Though it may seem possible that a teen could pursue these activities elsewhere, it still isn’t a good idea to permit these to take place under the “safety” of a parent’s roof to prevent them from doing it elsewhere.
Some teens may be engaging in sexual activity, or considering the idea. This is a very complicated subject in which no general rule of thumb handles the matter for everyone. Some parents may be adamant about preaching abstinence for religious reasons. Others may be more lenient about their teen’s choices. Like with drugs and alcohol, parents should not be allowing their children to engage in sexual activity in their home on their watch. Parents should, however, have appropriate talks with their kids about sex, STDs, pregnancy, consent, and birth control. The conversations may be awkward to both the parent and child, but it is for everyone’s own good. Knowledge is power and responsibility is important.
Not all teens will be faced with these situations during their adolescence, but they may during their college years. It is important to talk about these things before they happen so when the time comes, the right action will be taken. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Instead of aiding and abetting teens during these trying times, there are other ways to benefit teenagers and maintain or establish a healthy relationship with them.
- Be a good role model. Exhibit the behaviors and mannerisms that are worthy of passing on to the easily impressionable next generation.
- Be their cheerleader. If they participate in any extracurricular activities, put forth effort into attending their events on a regular basis. Acknowledge the hard work they put forth for school and what they do around the house. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
- Brainstorm their future together. What do they want to pursue for a career? Find out what training their dreams require and research colleges to find a good match for them.
- Find mutually enjoyable activities. This may be easier said than done, but sharing an interest can create or maintain a strong and healthy bond. Try something as simple as watching a movie, taking a walk, playing a game together, or listening to music as a starting point. Maybe this is the time to take on a new interest or activity together.
- Keep lines of communication open. Don’t shy away from topics because they are uncomfortable. The hardest things to talk about are usually very important things that do need to be discussed. Handle them right away if they get brought up, or initiate the conversations as needed.
- Love them unconditionally. The love parents express to their children will make the hard moments easier and the good moments even better for everyone.
Rest assured that while there will be bumps along the way, the journey to adulthood will be an exciting adventure for everyone. The path will be filled with self-discovery, academic achievements, and personal growth. Some of these bigger issues being faced now may make this time seem dreadful, but compared to sleep deprivation and temper tantrums, it’s not so bad after all. Parents and their teens will make it through this time together, and have a great relationship to show for it in the end.
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