Over the years as I have worked with teens and parents one mistake I have seen parents make often is in thinking their teen needs less supervision and more trust. The teen years are a time of discovery children are exploring the world of adulthood. While trust is very important and we all want to trust we have good kids. Supervision is also an important aspect of this age.
This is a time for you to pay close attention to the social and emotional aspects of your teen’s life. Ask questions, pay attention to their interactions when they are with their friends. Too often we think everything is fine. I suggest taking time to force your tween teen to cook dinner with you once a week. I have found while chopping veggies, measuring ingredients, kids will start talking. Take the time to listen to what they are saying; do not react just listen and hear what they are saying. As parents we want to rush in and fix things. However, this is the time to let kids figure it out for themselves when possible. If they ask for your advice of course give it to them, but reiterate the choice they make is theirs.
As parents of children who will shortly be making all of their own decisions in life we have to offer support, encouragement and a listening ear. Though we would love to continue to make all the decisions for them we ill handicap them in the long run by doing so.
We ofttimes over emphasize when a teen makes a mistake. Stop for a second and think about the last time someone magnified your mistake to you or others? What was your reaction and how did that over magnification make you feel? Do you really want to make your child to feel that way?
People make mistakes it is a part of life. The key as a parent is not tom make those mistakes bigger than they have to be. Making a mountain out of a molehill will only teach your teen you are not a safe place in times of trouble . which is the last thing you want. Help your teen go step by step in the process to examine where the mistake occurred help them to see where they went wrong. Then help them and support them as they correct the mistake. Making amends as needed and paying any reparations necessary.
This exercise is something I would like you to practice during the whole challenge. It is both simple and complicated. Here it is:
When your child comes to you to talk about something. Either stop right then turn to them, look them in the eye and give them your full attention and focus on what they are saying to you. Or if you are in the middle of something give them a time to come back when they can have your full attention. Be sure if you do the second option you give them a specific time. For instance, “I want to hear what you have to say, but I have to finish this right now and I need 30 minutes to finish this. Come back so I can give you my complete undivided attention. Then when they do come back even if you are not finished take the time to give them just that.
Then later write in your journal about the experience. I will tell you now the goal of this exercise is to get you into the habit of tuning into your child on a purposeful and conscious level. The number one complate of teens is that their parents do not listen. This exercise will ensure you do listen to them when they come to you, every time.