How Parents Can Set Children Up for a Healthy Adolescence
Many parents look toward the teen years with dread. They hear the horror stories of back-talking, eye-rolling, and rebellion, and wish they could just skip the whole thing. If you’re in this category, we first encourage you to read our previous blog, Reasons to Be Thankful for Teenagers, because there are some real upsides to teens that are often overlooked! Second, take heart because there are some steps you can take when your children are young or in their tween years that can smooth the path through adolescence. Check out these tips to help your child become ready for the challenges that lie ahead:
Demonstrate openness to ideas. As your child reaches the double digits in age, build a relationship that welcomes their ideas, even when those ideas seem unrealistic or conflict with your own values or opinions. You do not need to agree with your child’s ideas, but simply work to understand their viewpoint and show interest in their thoughts. If you can show your child that you are open to their ideas and willing to understand their perspective when they are young, they will be much more likely to feel comfortable discussing difficult topics with you and respect your opinion as a teenager.
Praise values. One of the best ways to protect children from peer pressure is to teach them to make their decisions based on their own moral compass rather than on other people’s approval. Celebrate every instance of your child following his/her conscience especially when it goes against the grain.
Instill self-control. Assigning household chores, not allowing temper tantrums in older children, developing good manners, and sticking to routines, even when it is difficult, are all ways in which children learn self-control. This type of discipline will be helpful when your child enters the world of adolescent stress and hormones.
Role model gratitude. Being grateful provides perspective, instills a sense of connection to others, and encourages generosity. Research shows that individuals who are grateful feel happier than those who do not. Children are always watching their parents, even when they don’t look like it, so you are influencing their behaviors all the time. When you demonstrate gratitude, you are protecting your future teen from anger and cynicism.
Teach positive coping skills. Everyone needs a positive way to deal with stress. Help your child identify theirs! Activities like exercising, listening to music, dancing, drawing, writing in a journal, yoga, playing a musical instrument, taking a long bath, reading a good book, taking a walk, or spending time with a pet can all reduce stress. If you can teach your child how to deal with stress in a positive way now, then they will be better equipped as a teen to handle challenges without turning to risky behaviors.
Adolescence does not have to be a horrible stage in your child’s development. You can take steps when your children are young to build a strong, healthy relationship that will diminish many of the problems families with teens experience. As you parent your child, be sure to clearly communicate expectations, create an environment of collaboration, praise and reinforce any desired behaviors, and avoid overly harsh consequences. When you treat kids respectfully and focus on the good you see in your child, you will discover that teens can be quite pleasant to have around.