Parenting is a difficult task, and parenting a teenager can feel like a whole other ballgame because it is. During these years, you may feel a wedge of the distance between you and your child, but you are still the main influence in their lives, and your presence is more important than ever.
Navigating between the borders of parent and confidant can be difficult. It’s hard to know when they need a friend and supporter and when they need you to step up and be their backbone and authority. But while this may seem like an impossible hurdle, it is not.
Here are 10 essential tips necessary for parenting a teen.
1. Establish consistent time together.
Every day, you need to be sure to touch base with your teen. Make a routine time to spend together each day, whether it’s before and during dinner, quality time later in the evening, or a morning ritual together. This allows your teen to know and understand that you are there, and you are dependable for communication and for quality time.
2. Approach their age appropriately.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean you ignore the fact that your child is growing and needs to have more independence and freedom. Show that you are the parent, set healthy boundaries, and allow them some room to grow. They aren’t babies anymore, but they also aren’t grown. There is a balance that can be achieved here.
3. You can be a parent and a friend.
Teens need to feel understood and loved. They want to have a friendship with you and for you to acknowledge their independence as a person, while still having someone to hold responsibility for them. Being their friend and supporter won’t destroy your relationship with them, but it’s important to know when you should be a parent and when you should be a friend. You still need to protect them.
4. Encourage them to have dreams.
During these years, your teen is likely starting to realize who they are and think about what they want from life. If you notice they enjoy something and that they are good at it, don’t stomp all over their dreams by telling them to be more realistic. Help them actualize their goals and understand their purpose. Don’t shut their dreams down before they even have a chance.
5. Allow them to make mistakes.
As hard as it may be to watch them fail sometimes, you need to. They don’t need you intervening and taking over, because if you do this, they won’t learn how to critically think or problem solve. Allow them to make mistakes, and then show them how they can use them to move forward.
6. Don’t make decisions for them.
Yet again, it may be hard not to be an intervening parent, but the more you intervene and make hard decisions for them, the less likely they will be to make them in their future. Teach them good values, weigh decisions out with them, and help guide them, rather than stepping all over them.
7. Make mealtimes a priority.
As much as possible, prioritize family meals. Use this time to discuss weekly events, plans, and other details and things happening with your teen. This also reinforces a parental bond and shows them you are dependable and there for them. It’s also just a nice tradition to prioritize connecting with family and sharing a meal.
8. Teach good self-care.
Encourage your teen to keep a good sleep schedule and explain why they need it. Show them good eating habits by living by them yourself, and teach them about the importance of exercise and good hygiene. Don’t just tell them what to do, explain why these things are necessary, and it will stick in their mind much easier.
9. Notice their strengths and encourage them to harness them.
Pay attention to your teen, and recognize their strengths. If you notice they are good at caring for animals and deeply love them, suggest volunteering at an animal shelter, or ask them if that’s something they are passionate about. If you notice they are athletic, help them grow in that area. Always encourage your teen to grow and to understand their strengths, so they can find a path in life that aligns with their strengths.
10. Don’t be too hard on them when they mess up.
There will be times in which your teen royally messes up. As hard as it may be, don’t freak out or be too hard on them. Emphasize that they made a mistake and how it was made, but focus more on how to avoid it in the future, how serious the outcome could have been and how to do better. Don’t act like it’s the end, or they will never be able to handle failure.