By Valorie Dassel, Courier & Press, Feb. 13, 2018 –
Being a parent is often described as the greatest joy of one’s life. It is amazing that an experience that is often described so fondly is also characterized by most parents as the greatest challenge they have ever faced.
A wide set of emotions can be experienced on this journey, particularly during the pre-teen and teen years. Families are often extremely busy, which can result in many emotional reactions from parents as well as teens.
If we can relate to the developmental challenges our children are experiencing, it may help us to respond in a manner that results in the least resistance and greatest gain.
There are many physical, emotional and mental changes teenagers are experiencing. Most teens are at the developmental stage of approaching individualization.
The beliefs, values, and subsequently the choices of most pre-teens are primarily based on what their parents have taught and modeled. As our children approach the teen years, they begin the process to become their own person with their own set of values and belief systems.
During this process parents may interpret the teen’s behavior as rebellious and disobedient. Decision-making skills are the last skills mastered during the development of the teen brain. As teens seek independence, they often experience conflict between wanting to have a good time and their desire to be taken seriously.
Independence for teenagers can be translated to finding ways to “belong” outside of the family. Research indicates that parents have the most influence over their child’s decisions. Their peers often take a close second.
Social media creates greater access and a closer bond with peers. Now more than ever, parents should facilitate this independence while maintaining a healthy relationship.
Independence and responsibility must occur in harmony; otherwise the teen may feel out of control and act accordingly. Parents must allow consequences and use discipline when necessary to help teenagers make better decisions.
For many parents this transition can be difficult; allowing your child to fail is tough. The old adage “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child” can ring very true while we allow them to experience the pain that can go along with poor decisions.
It may also feel as though you are losing your close relationship with our children as they nurture their friendships more than familial relationships. With work and dedication, most parents find maintaining good communication and providing rules that strike a balance in time spent with friends and family often results in healthy and enjoyable relationships.
Dinkmeyer & Dinkmeyer provide good guidelines for parents to follow when deciding whether or not to get involved in a problem their teen is experiencing. In their book, Parenting Teenagers, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, they discuss the importance of deciding who actually owns the problem before forcing parental involvement. The following questions are encouraged to be explored:
- Can anyone get hurt?
- Are any rights being disrespected?
- Is anyone’s property threatened?
- Is my teen unable to take this responsibility?
If any of these questions are answered with a “yes,” then both the parent and the teen own the problem. Joined problem solving and parental monitoring should be in place.
If each question has a response of “no,” the teen would own the problem and be allowed the independence to make a decision regardless of a potentially natural consequence occurring.
Raising a teenager can feel stressful and chaotic. It is important to schedule time to enjoy each other without conversation over tense subjects. Remember -they will quickly pass through the teen years and potentially raise a teen of their own someday!