From when I became a teenager what I really wanted was to finally be treated differently, and not like a kid anymore. It was a milestone, a benchmark and unfortunately many parents only acknowledge that on your actual birthday and go right back to treating you like you’re five years old after that. So here are a few things that I think teenagers need and want from their parents.
This, I think, is the most important point, so I’m going to start off with it. All anybody really wants is respect, and we’re no different. After you turn 13 and as you grow, you have more and more opinions and ideas and you really want to be taken seriously. Please treat your teenager as a person in their own right and don’t dismiss what they say on the basis of them being young. Also, on the other hand, don’t tell them that everything they say and do is amazing because now even though you say our drawings are ‘so creative’, we know they look horrendous and we would appreciate constructive criticism more than the false positive reinforcement. Many times parents treat their children like 10 year olds all through their teen years and suddenly, flip the switch at 18, when they leave for college. That isn’t helping anyone, so gradually reaching there is a much better plan of action.
As a parent, you should use your kid’s childhood years to imbibe all the values into them that you think are good so that when they do enter their teens; you feel confident enough to trust them to make their own decisions. During the course of the coming years, everything is going to change for them in many ways and during all this just make sure that if anything; he/she is more scared of disappointing you than making you angry. Don’t use fear, beat them with your logic or listen to theirs and sometimes accept defeat. Understand that everything isn’t black and white and they’re always doing their best too. Also, never forget that nothing they do will be to annoy you, it’s not about you, there’s always a lot you won’t know. So, make sure you help them develop to a point where you can know that they can hold their own. This point also extends into letting them choose the stream of study that they want and not pushing them into only science and especially into engineering or medical coaching classes. From first hand experience and from many many stories, I know for sure that pushing someone into intensive programs like that against their will can really damage a person. Have the faith that they aren’t joking around when they talk about taking other subjects and hear them out. Showing them that you trust them means something to them and no one takes that lightly. That responsibility they will feel will make sure they don’t abuse it. Don’t try to live their life for them, just make sure they know what to do.
A huge part of your job now is to find the perfect balance between being a parent and a friend. We need to know that you’re here for us, to listen and not judge, to try and understand our problems and be our support system, but we also need you to be a parent. You have to make sure the lines don’t get blurred. This is a personal opinion from the way I was brought up, but I genuinely think that if your child tells you EVERYTHING, that isn’t healthy. Also, if they tell you nothing, that isn’t either. The only way he/she will talk to you is if you make sure that you are accepting, understanding and practical. You can’t always let your emotions get the better of you in these situations. Many times, they’ll need someone to just talk to and they need to know that you can be that person without them having to worry about you yelling at them instead of comforting them. However, make sure you don’t become entirely a friend either because that can’t work. They have to remember that you are an adult and you do have authority. Sometimes, we need that too. I know, teenagers are pretty weird. The balance is different in every family, but try finding what works best for you.
The last thing that I think is supremely important is being open. Parents need to have all the talks with their kids and there should be no taboos. You need to talk to your teenagers about relationships and physical attractions with the opposite sex, along with stuff about puberty and later, even about alcohol. Thinking that they won’t find out about all of this by the age of 15 is a ridiculous assumption, especially because of the kind of TV shows and movies we are all exposed to all the time. Talking to them about it helps them not be confused and also lets them know that it’s a natural thing and not an uncomfortable topic for them to talk to you about. Many people feel more and more distanced from their parents because of an inability to communicate concerns that they feel their parents will think inappropriate. Also, a lot of teens have wrong awareness when it comes to a lot of things because they usually don’t get their information from an airtight source. You need to be that airtight source. As awkward as they will act and as much as they won’t want to have any of those talks, it’s your responsibility to step up and keep them informed and let them know that all the changes and urges that arise are completely normal.
Most of all, parents need to remember what their teenage years were like and realize that it isn’t easy. There are a lot of emotions and there are a lot of difficult things one will have to go through. It’s your initiation into what lies ahead and knowing that it isn’t always pleasant; so bear with them and do all that you can to make it as painless for them as possible. This is just thoughts from an almost-adult. Hope if nothing else, this gives you some perspective.