Teenagers Need You To Be A Friendly Parent, Not Their Friend!

I remember this guidance given to me ‘You just need to tell them what is good and what is bad and teach them good values, leave the rest to them, they will figure it out.

One of the definitions that I came across for teenagers caught my eye – Someone who is ready for the zombie apocalypse but not ready for the math test tomorrow. That is as close to the truth that one can get.

There is a common belief that you need to become their friend as they grow older. I would not recommend that. While friendship is important for them during these formative years, they are also going through choosing who they can be friends with and who they can depend upon. That is a stressful process, so at home, they need a friendly parent and not another friend.

Parenting teenagers and young adults

Teenagers and the fresh adults don’t need you as a friend. They need a parent.

I see many parents and the children struggling to build a healthy relationship during the formative years. A strong relationship with you helps your teenager feel safe and secure and gives them the confidence to learn and explore especially when they hit the celebrated yet confusing years.

The role of mothers alters with their children’s age and even more during their teens and early adulthood.

Mothers are seen as someone who can provide them that safe place where they can express themselves, discover themselves and discover their path. The questions is always how you make it easy for teenagers as a mom. I have seen the cliched view of when the girl child becomes a teenager, she needs the mom more and the boy child the father. They need you to become a friend.

NO, absolutely not!

Parents must play the role of a parent. Teenagers need that safety, they need to feel welcomed, they need to be listened to and guided. I remember this guidance given to me ‘You just need to tell them what is good and what is bad and teach them good values, leave the rest to them, they will figure it out.’

This advice came to me much before my son became a teenager, but it was one of the best that I applied and benefitted from. Of course, like any other mom, I learnt by trial and error and practicing different methods. One thing I know is that I had to be relentless and resilient and frustration or getting agitated over everything they do or say was not going to help anyone. Teenagers the most misunderstood and that doesn’t change right after they move out of their teens as well.

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The best way to be a parent is to know and understand what to do and what not to do

  • Keep the communication open and that includes listening to them whenever they need you and how much ever they need you
  • While you may have a contradicting opinion, it’s important to let them know why it is contradicting and welcome the contradiction if it’s not too damaging.
  • Advice – all of us know that teenagers don’t like advice even if it’s laced with love and affection. Giving examples and giving them the confidence that they can solve problems helps
  • Showcasing their capabilities and not have unrealistic expectations
  • Have honest and direct conversations around physical and mental changes they are going through and how it affects them
  • Rules and parenting are part of the same sentence, so be clear about the rules that they need to adhere by and give them opportunities to be responsible.
  • Talk about self-worth and self-esteem. I have learnt that that’s the best medicine to enable them to be better human beings.
  • Compliment them and recognize their achievements.
  • While respecting their privacy, it’s also important to teach them about distractions, tell them about the dangers of the internet and teach them about digital safety.
  • Support their dreams.

So be that relative that they can turn to, speak to and just approach whenever and wherever they need it.

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish


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