I have yet to enter the realm of the teenage years with my boys.  Believe me, I’ve been fairly warned.  I don’t think I’ve yet to encounter one parent who has said to me, ‘Just wait til your kids are teenagers, that’s when parenting gets super easy!’  Teenagers today are dealing with factors we never even imagined.  While peer pressure has remained the same, there is now the Internet and social networking that adds a whole different level to the complexities of growing up.

There’s this unspoken pressure that our kids should be grown-ups sooner rather than later.  Some parents I’ve talked to who currently are raising teenagers say that having a boyfriend or girlfriend is happening younger and younger.  There is a big cache’ that comes with having a significant other and apparently the earlier the age this happens, the better it is for your popularity status.  I find this trend alarming.

While it would be lovely to turn a blind eye to all of this, we have to find a way to a happy middle ground.  We all remember how hard it was to fit in, so we have to be aware of what our kids are facing, while finding ways to keep them safe and grounded. Talking to your kids about the challenges you faced as a teen and how it wasn’t always easy is one approach to establishing a connection with them.  Let them know where and how you floundered and that you didn’t have all the answers.  If you can let down your parent-guard for a moment or two, they might learn it’s okay to let down their guard with you.  Maybe they will see it’s okay not to have it all together, and seeing that you made it through to adulthood despite some bumps in the road, will be a comfort to them.

When it comes to how your teens express themselves, pick your battles.  Let some things go if you can and let them win every once in a while.  Maybe purple hair isn’t your favorite look, but if you allow them a purple streak here and there, maybe they will realize that they are in fact, your favorite kid.

I know I certainly do not have all the answers, especially when it comes to the teenage years.  I would encourage you to reach out to other parents of teenagers, or if you are facing a particularly challenging fork in the road, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Riverview Counseling Services has the resources you need to help get you and your teen back on track.  To learn more and to get a free behavioral phone consultation, please contact Cheryl Denz, MA, LCPC at 630-587-3777 x103.  The consult will be 15 minutes in length and if further help is needed, Cheryl will guide you in the right direction.

Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent

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