It is not easy being a teen today. I know, every generation thinks the next one has it so much more complicated, but it’s true! Kids today have to navigate a much more complex world than I did 25 years ago or my parents did 50 years ago as teens. The world is definitely getting smaller, but one thing hasn’t changed—puberty.
Well, maybe it has changed a little. Studies suggest that kids enter puberty earlier today than they did a generation ago. With the outside world bombarding our kids with a slew of mixed messages about what is cool, how they should look, what they should be doing or listening to and so much more, where is a parent to begin?
Here is some advice from a mom in the midst of puberty (so to speak), since I have three teenage daughters and a son on the edge of it all, and two more to soon follow!
Listen First & Be a Sounding Board
Kids DO want to tell us stuff. We, as parents, do need to remember to listen. Like good teachers, we can tell kids what we see and understand to be happening, but then let them clarify from their own perspective. Their bodies and minds are changing faster than they can keep up with!
Speak Truth & Be a Source of Facts (Also, Comfort)
Kids need to hear truths about their body, but not insults. If your teen is overweight, discuss food and activity choices and provide healthy options. Everyone’s body is imperfect in some aspect and each person has valuable contributions no matter what their appearance. This is basic but bears repeating.
Dispense Wise Advice & Be a Good Model
Teens need good advice. They get plenty of bad advice and models from social media, school and even friends. Parents and caregivers need to give good advice. Yeah, it’s obvious, but look around. There needs to be more adults speaking wisely across our entire society! Good nutrition, skin care and a healthy body image are not just teen concepts. Show your teen what you do or tell how you cope.
Take Help & Be Realistic & Resourceful
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: get help! Teens look up to young adults, especially successful ones, including babysitters, college students and older family members. If you have one of these successful young people in your circle of family or friends, use them! Use him or her to be a confidante or trusted friend, to tell your teen what the real world is like and how to successfully overcome obstacles like bullying, poor self-image and maintaining healthy habits and lifestyles.
Forgive Transgressions with Life Lessons & Be a Moral Compass
Kids sometimes get wrong ideas and mess up. Like everything else, they might need guidance and good advice. Forgive their mistakes and show them how an adult would go about making corrections or amends. Every mistake in life is a teachable moment. We can teach negatively and show kids how to get around the rules or we can show them how to overcome obstacles and learn from their mistakes.
These guidelines really hold true for parents of any-age child. Kids today need us parents more than ever! None of us is perfect or has all the answers. Kids already know that, and then some. Try to keep these words of advice and always keep the lines of communication open. Expectations should be high but treat each child with love and respect for his or her individuality and feelings. They are not you and need to learn some lessons on their own, even the hard way. Demand respect in return and your kids will watch and, hopefully, follow!