By Somaira Arshad
Lack of communication and over-parenting – these are two major issues that teens mostly complain about. Seemingly opposite, these two are actually different sides to the same coin. It is the absence of a meaningful relationship between parent and child that leads to an over-protective parenting style.
Granting personal space, showing respect for individual freedom and keeping their expectations real in academic and social realms – that’s what teens want from their parents.
Respect for elders, abstaining from drugs and/or alcohol and sexual promiscuity, better academic performance and abiding by social and religious norms – that is what parents expect from their children.
Facing tantrums and push backs, getting involved in parent-child arguments or bigger family conflicts, a thoroughly stressed out parent and/or an immensely depressed child – that is what we all fear in our family lives.
Our goal as parents is to keep our kids safe and happy while helping them grow into successful independent individuals. Harmful indulgences in teens are most often caused by a common trigger which is the daily anxiety and stress they go through. Our youth carries a huge burden of real and unreal expectations by their peers and teachers at school and own family members at home. They live under a lot of pressure and as parents we have to realize that.
How Can Parents Help?
Be a good listener
In order to help, listening to them and a show of affection is a must. Give them your time, attention and most of all your ears.
Speak to them in a way that they would love to listen to you. Make them feel that your love and companionship for them is unconditional and permanent. Keep talking to your children. Tell them how wonderful they are. Your words of positive encouragement nourish the best in them.
Know them better
A better understanding of strengths as well as weaknesses of your children will help in fostering a better relationship.
Don’t blame them for their weaknesses. Laugh with them, not at them. Differentiate between humour and bullying. Tell them we all have our very own weaknesses and there are ways to get over them.
Be an organizational coach
Give them tools to solve their problems and be patient with results. If they go wrong, learn to forgive and encourage them to try again. Comfort them, tell them to be easy on themselves. Teach them about the natural and logical consequences of their actions.
Empathize, acknowledge and validate their problems. Help them set realistic, small manageable goals. While doing homework with them, encourage them to take down-time for themselves. Encourage exercise, extra-curricular activities and healthy eating habits.
Respect their privacy
Most of all try not to deprive them of free fun time. Let them spend time alone or with their friends. Try not to be intrusive. Show them that you trust them to be responsible enough to use their time wisely when they are alone or they are with their friends.
On the other hand, you also have to let them know that you are the parent and they will have to answer to you. They should know how to make a balanced use of all given privileges including electronic devices and social media.
Try to give logical explanations of your religious and cultural norms in a manner they can relate to. Break that down to present reality of this world instead of talking only about the results we get in afterlife.
Make it relevant to the issues they face in their daily lives so they’d use religious and social values as tools to solve their immediate problems.
Be a role model
Integrate morality and ethics in their lives in better ways. Give them ways to serve. Show them how to use their strengths to help others. Teach them that their best self-interest is being interested in other human beings. Show them that disagreeing with others’ lifestyles should not make them fear or hate others. Tell them to love someone doesn’t mean they have to agree with everything that person does or believes in.
Understand their circumstances
In addition to juggling academics, extra-curricular activities and chores at home, our teens face peer pressure at school. Exclusions, rejections, put downs and even bullying are frequent issues at school.
Teens have an emotional need to fit in, help them with those issues. Tell them that media hype about impossible feminine beauty and male macho standards is unreal and they are perfectly created in their biological make up.
Let them decide
Many youngsters of our community are usually forced by their parents to pursue certain careers. We should instead help them do what they’d love to do. Our prime goal is to teach them to be happy with who they are and their abilities. Instead of making decisions for them, encourage them to ask questions, seek knowledge so they can make informed decisions for themselves.
Be their one true confidante
Teens seek a relationship that they can fully trust in, someone they can count on and who does not doubt their intentions or judge them negatively. If you are able to make your children feel that they could find that person in you, half of their stress is gone. That way you too will save yourself the trouble of trying to stop them from unnecessarily relying on their friends. But that doesn’t mean you don’t give them time with their friends. Spending time with friends is a part of growing up. Let them learn to socialize with success.
As parents it is our responsibility to maintain a healthy balance, staying on top of things and granting essential independence and privacy in their personal lives. Parenting a teen is not hard work, it can be easy only if we respect them as the individuals they are.
About the author:
Somaira Arshad resides in Mississauga, Ontario. She is a mother of three and works as a teacher with Toronto and Peel District School Boards. Throughout her career she has been a technical writer, a freelance journalist and a language and math teacher for intermediate/high school and special needs children. Her vast teaching experience and valuable exposure with a variety of children gives her an insight into teaching and parenting practices.