I really enjoyed the teenage years with my sons Gabe and Ben. I think the key to coasting through those years is communication: let them know what your expectations are, set limits and be aware of who, what, where and how.
Setting expectations is the easiest. You want them to make healthy food and drink choices, go to school and work hard, exercise, sleep well and be of good nature.
Seems easy, right? Well, it can be, if you set an environment by simply being a good role model:
- Have healthy food at home and limit junk food and sugary drinks
- Encourage good attendance at school, keeping up with their work and getting help when needed
- Support efforts to exercise 60 minutes a day (do your best!)
- Encourage good sleep hygiene and especially don’t allow electronic devices in the bedroom at night
- Give and receive respect
Setting limits is so important, but you should also realize a little wiggle room is OK.
Pick your battles
I like to put everything in 3 baskets when making a decision about what I will or won’t let a child do.
One basket represents the “Health and Safety Basket” – and no matter what – your decision stands. These are things like wearing a seatbelt at all times in the car, curfew, and no drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
My grandmother, who was Armenian and couldn’t speak very good English, would say, “Better they cry than you cry.” I have said this in my head over and over when I’ve said “no” to my teenagers, even though it broke their hearts or made them mad.
The basket on the other side has items that are OK to give into, but make those decisions ahead of time. Examples are letting them have friends come over or choosing their wardrobe (provided you would only buy them something that was appropriate in the first place).
The middle basket is a little harder and requires you to think clearly how you would like to approach the situation. It includes items that aren’t as clear cut and allow some flexibility, such as letting your teen stay up late to watch the NCAA Championship game on a school night. While you know sleep is important to be ready for school, it’s a special event that your family can enjoy and spend time together.
Communication is so important because you need to know who their friends are, get to know the parents and families of their friends, what they are doing at all times, where they are going to be and how they are going to get there.
Take an interest in their activities, and be aware of their surroundings. I love the expression: “It takes a village to raise a child.” There are so many outside influences on our children that it’s important to know who, what, where and how they’re influenced.