HOW TO LIVE WITH & ENJOY YOUR TEENAGER
This week I was asked by one of our readers if I would write a column to help parents cope with their teenagers. I have worked with thousands of teens: never found one I didnít like. Some I liked more then others. I enjoyed thirty plus years working and counselling teenagers on a daily basis and now I am in private practice. Here are some helpful hints to help you survive.
1) Listen to your children, shut off the computer/cell phone and go for a walk with them and try not to be judgmental.
2) Help your son or daughter set "reasonable" goals for achievement in school and extra curricular activities. Find something positive each day and praise them for their efforts, most young people are not lazy; positive reinforcement works wonders.
3) Mom and Dad you are two thirds of the triangle; if you can not agree on acceptable behaviour than you send mixed messages to your children. Try not to be your childrenís friend: friendship does not necessarily bring forth respect and confidence and besides you are too old.
4) Young people will follow your examples, it is not what you say but what you do that counts. Parents who smoke are negative role models for their children and yes your teen will follow your path. Caring parents usually produce loving children and abused children have very low self esteem. Many young people have asked me if they could inherits their parentís mental illness and my answer is no, but we mimic the life style of our families and communities.
5) Parentsís should not get too upset with their teenís music, clothes, tattoos, hair style and friends. Strange how many of us have forgotten our long hair, rock and roll and the other "weird" behaviour our parents had to endure. The boyfriend/girlfriend our children choose can cause arguments between parent and their teens. The current boyfriend Mary brings home is not your type, he keeps her on her cell phone for hours and we are worried that our beloved child will be led astray. By the age of twelve our children know right from wrong and they will not usually be led astray. Trust, not strict curfews works wonders and being a good listener and try to be supportive is very important in family relationships.
6) "Get out of my house". I am presently counselling a family who told their daughter these harsh words, the girl packed her bags and left: what the mother really meant was you hurt me, I am frustrated at. your behaviour and I deserve your respect. It is sort of like telling someone to "drop dead", anger takes over your emotions and we want to rid ourselves of the problem. Sometimes a change of residence to stay with the grandparents can be a safe/ comfortable place for the teens to stay. Leslie Mahaffeyís parents locked their doors and Paul Bernardo did the rest.
7)Do not compare your son/daughter to their sibling; your brother was great in Math, your sister achieved the best student award for excellence. Teens respond negatively to such examples and dislike comparisons. Expressions such as you are super, you bring us happiness, glad we had you, works miracles on a teenís self confidence.
8)Children should be encouraged to volunteer their time by providing good deeds in helping their community. Helping out at the hospital, senior citizens centre, day care or the local food bank is a wonderful way of contributing to others. If one learns to give instead of merely taking they will find a sense of fulfilment.
9) Divorce and separation can play havoc with our teens behaviour; all the rules are broken. Grandparents are often cut off and the extended family ceases to exist. The teens sense of stability and the feeling of belonging are severed and a void appears: something like a death in the family that time does not easily heal. School can suffer: marks and attendance are no longer important and goals and future aspirations can be put on hold.
10) With lots of love, patience and a sense of humour you too will survive your childrenís teen age years. I have never lost a teen to suicide: I have sometimes worried about the parents.
Len Lesser provides personal, educational and career counselling in Dorchester www.career-education.ca He can be reached at lenlessser @hotmail.com