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Parenting teens

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Parenting extends way beyond the ability to conceive and give birth to a baby. It is the ultimate long-term emotional, financial, spiritual and psychological investment. Some persons entering into this phase of their lives do so fully prepared and well read, whilst others stumble upon this opportunity; whatever the story behind which you became a parent, it must be seen as a divine gift and a blessing to nurture the lives of the next generation.{{more}}

Parents parent the way they were parented. It’s instinctive. If you want to parent a different way, you have to make a conscious effort to change. It’s as simple as that, but it’s not easy. Fighting your instincts never is. Many parents may say things to their children that their parents would have said to them. The question is…Is my parents’ method of parenting fitting for the kids and teenagers of this era?

Surviving the teenage years:

You’ve lived through 2 a.m. feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So, why is the word “teenager” causing you so much worry?

When you consider that the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically, but emotionally and intellectually, it’s understandable that it’s a time of confusion and upheaval for many families.

Despite some adults’ negative perceptions about teens, they are often energetic, thoughtful, and idealistic, with a deep interest in what’s fair and right. So, although it can be a period of conflict between parent and child, the teen years are also a time to help children grow into the distinct individuals they will become.

One of the common stereotypes of adolescence is the rebellious, wild teen, continually at odds with mommy and daddy. Although it may be the case for some kids and this is a time of emotional ups and downs, that stereotype certainly is not representative of most teens.

But the primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. To do this, teens must start pulling away from their parents – especially the parent to whom they’re the closest. This can feel like teens are always at odds with parents, or don’t want to be around them the way they used to.

As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They’re forming their moral code. And parents of teens may find that kids who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves – and their opinions

– strongly and rebelling against parental control.

You may need to look closely at how much room you give your teen to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: “Am I a controlling parent?,” “Do I listen to my child?,” and “Do I allow my teen’s opinions and tastes to differ from my own?”

Tips for Parenting the Teenage Years:

o Educate Yourself: Read books about teenagers. Think back on your own teen years. Remember your own struggles; expect some mood changes in your child, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Parents who know what’s coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare.

o Talk to your children Early and Often: starting to talk about menstruation or wet dreams after they’ve already begun is starting too late. Answer the early questions kids have about bodies, such as the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from. But don’t overload them with information – just answer their questions. If you don’t know the answers, get them from someone who does, like a trusted friend or your pediatrician.

o Put Yourself in Your Child’s Place: Practice empathy by helping your child understand that it’s normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it’s OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a child the next.

o Pick Your Battles: think twice before objecting to trivial decisions that your teen may choose to make. Teens want to shock their parents and it’s a lot better to let them do something temporary and harmless; save your objections for things that really matter, like sex, drugs and alcohol, or permanent changes to their appearance.

o Ask why your teen wants to dress or look a certain way and try to understand how your teen is feeling. You also might want to discuss how others might perceive them if they look different – help your teen understand how he or she might be viewed.

Know the Warning Signs

A certain amount of change is normal during the teen years. But too drastic or long-lasting a switch in personality or behaviour may signal real trouble – the kind that needs professional help. Watch for these warning signs:

o extreme weight gain or loss

o sleep problems

o rapid, drastic changes in personality

o sudden change in friends

o skipping school often

o falling grades

o talk or even jokes about suicide

o signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use

o trouble with the police

“Children close their ears to advice, but open their eyes to example”…Unknown

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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