When Kids Grow Up
Some day our darling little babies will grow up to be *gulp* teenagers. They’ll no longer think the moon of us, but think we’re the most clueless, strictest, most unreasonable (take your pick) parent in the whole world. They’ll think we don’t understand them. They’ll think we’re an embarrassment. When once they turned to us for advice, they’ll turn to their friends. When once they thought we knew everything, they’ll think we know nothing and especially nothing about being a teen. They think, horror of all horrors, that we don’t know them.
When I stare at my baby girl as she gleefully blows bubbles in the water, or blows me “flying kisses” ten times in a row, I can’t imagine that there will ever be a time when she won’t be so innocent. I can’t imagine her breaking my heart because of a lie she has told, because of rules she’ll bend or break. Because she decided to be swayed by her friends’ influence rather than mine. I console myself it’s light years away but I know it’s coming and so I need to prepared. As should all parents. Being a Mom or Dad to teenagers is a whole new world of parenting. If you think you’re confused now with breastfeeding issues, or trying to get a picky toddler to eat, just imagine the muddy waters you’ll have to traverse as you learn to deal with teen angst, hormones, and identity search. Just like you read baby books and tried to prepare yourself mentally for the coming of your newborn, and did research with every new milestone, so should you do the same for the coming of that turbulent phase in their lives.
What should you do now to prepare a good foundation for their teen years?
- Tell them you love them. Don’t assume they know. Don’t demand they say it back. Just say it and mean it.
- Give them boundaries. Some children grow up needing few directions and are able to set limits on themselves. Some don’t. Don’t be afraid that they will hate you for being strict. I plan to tell my little girl that if they hate me I must be doing my job well then :). Seriously, your child needs to know that you mean what you say and you say what you mean. When you set out a consequence for an action, stick to it.
- Watch who their friends are. You can’t just do everything you think is right and hope that some shield will protect them from friends who may not always come from functional homes. Ask questions, get to know their friends early on and steer them towards other children who seem to come from families with values that share yours.
- Get them committed to risk-free activities. Have them join a club, youth groups. Or maybe into competitive dance, martial arts, or sports. These positive environments should instill a goal to them, and a purpose, and lastly, steer them away from boredom.
- Raise them to be critical thinking children. Get then involved in family decisions, spur them to think about the consequences of their actions. Discuss politics, books, even TV shows with them to get to the message being brought across.
- Respect them. Respect their opinions, and their choices in areas that doesn’t put them in danger or doesn’t jeopardize your family values. Whether it’s wearing gothic clothing or black nail polish, or giving up sports for theater, let them express themselves in the way they’d like.
- Give them a strong sense of family bond. No matter how much I hated how strict my mom was, I couldn’t ever rebel. It would mean I wouldn’t be in protected and fun family circle. We had lots of fun as a family, and I couldn’t have run away from that, or hurt my parents who loved me.
There are many more to parenting than the tips I’ve outlined here, I’m sure but these are the ones important to me. How did you escape your teenage years unscathed? What do you plan to do different in raising our child?