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Posts Tagged ‘parenting teenagers’

As a single parent, it is normal that at some point you will want to begin to date again and that hopefully you will find someone with whom you would like to spend a lot of your time.  At some point, you will need to introduce this other person to your teenage children which can be complicated and cause you some significant stress and anxiety.  Likely you will worry about what your teenager will think of this new person in your life and what this person will think of your teenager.  (Before going further, it is important to note that this article is referring to parents who are in at least semi-serious dating relationships.  It is generally never advisable to introduce children to individuals if the relationship is only causal as this can be confusing to them.  In addition, you certainly don’t want them becoming attached to someone who you know will not be in your life for very long.)  Introducing someone new to your teenager can be even further complicated if your teenager holds resentment following a divorce, or is still holding onto hope that you will get back together with their other parent.  In such situations, introducing a new partner to your teenager will force them to see the reality that you are not reconciling with their other parent which can result in some difficult emotions for them.

Below are some tips for you, as the parent, if you are in a situation where you are dating someone and feel it is time for them to be introduced to your teen.

  1. Make sure you are feeling the relationship is going to last.  By this I don’t mean forever since nobody can predict what will happen years down the road, however, if you see that the relationship will be short-lived, it is not advisable to introduce the other person to your children.
  2. Make sure the other person is open to meeting your children.  If they are not, you should take a close look at the reasons why and question if this is someone who is appropriate for you to be in a relationship with.  The reality is that you have children who are an important part of your life and if the other person is not interested in getting to know them, you will likely end up feeling very conflicted and set yourself up for a lot of guilt and stress.
  3. Prepare your teen.  Don’t “surprise” them with a visit from your new love interest.  This will likely not go over well at all and you will then have to undo any damage done.  It is best to tell your teenager that you are interested in someone and that since they (meaning your teenager) are the most important thing in your life, you would like them to meet this person and let you know what they think.
  4. Don’t “sell” your boyfriend / girlfriend.  Your teenager is smarter than you may think and they will pick up on this.  It is fine to just say, “I want you to meet this person because they are a really good person and they treat me well”.  If your teenager asks further questions then you should answer them honestly but don’t make the person out to be more than they are or feel you have to be a salesperson for them.
  5. Do something activity based.  Try to minimize the pressure of just sitting and having a conversation.  Even sitting and eating dinner can make people feel forced to just sit and talk which can be uncomfortable.  Think about going bowling, to a movie or to a sporting event that will allow for interaction but much less pressure to simply sit and talk.
  6. Don’t be phony.  Make sure that you act like yourself.  Your teenager will pick up on any changes to your personality and will likely see it as very negative.  They still want you to be their mom or dad as they know you, so make sure you are comfortable with what you do so that you can be yourself.
  7. Reassure.  Reassure your teenager that they are the most important thing in your life, no matter what.  If you have started dating, your time with them may have lessened or you may seem more distracted.  It is important to remember that your teenager will be sensitive to this and that they will need reassurance both verbally and through your actions that they are still number one.

For more free resources for parents of teenagers go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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Maintaining good boundaries as the parent of a teenager is important.  Boundaries are about maintaining good self-care and setting limits on how much others can put on you or take from you.  Having clear and healthy boundaries can help you avoid a lot of problems in relationships because others know what to expect from you and know your limitations without taking things personally.  As you well know, teenagers can be very self-absorbed which is a normal based on their developmental stage.  This self-absorption can really push the boundaries of others, and especially of parents, if there are not clear boundaries in place.

Below are some examples of how boundaries of parents can be tested by their teens along with suggestions for helping you maintain good boundaries during this challenging time:

1.  My teen is always running late and throws off my schedule.  This can make parents feel like they can never be on their own schedule because their teenager is always dictating when they need to be dropped off, picked up, etc.  In these situations, you can maintain good boundaries by clearly stating what time you will be leaving to go out or what time you will be available to pick them up.  If your teenager is running late, you should still leave at the previously stated time and do this consistently.  Of course the first time or two your teen will be very upset, however, you can remind them that you will be continuing to leave when you say you will and suggest that they try to get themselves ready a little bit earlier.  It is amazing how quickly they will respond!

2.  My teen will not get up in the morning and I end up having to go into their room 10 times to wake them up.  I have heard this over and over again from parents who feel like their morning is ruined every day because they are nagging and badgering their teen to get out of bed.  In this situation, you should tell your teen that you will come into their room one time to help remind them to get up for school and that if they miss the bus, they will need to walk or use their own money for a cab ride to school.  Again, the first time your teen misses their bus and needs to pay for a cab or walk they will be irate and blaming, however, they will quickly get the message that you will give them their one reminder to get up and that is it.  This will result in you having time for yourself in the morning rather than being so focused on your teen who is likely fully capable of getting up and ready on their own.

3.  My teen always wants more money for things they “really need”.  This is always tricky because teens feel like their parents have a never-ending supply of money for them to use.  When parents do not set a boundary on this, it can lead to excessive nagging and badgering from teens who are always going to want or “need” one more thing that costs money.  One of the best ways to manage this is to have an allowance system with clear chore expectations.  Teens should be reminded that they have their own money for certain things (parents should be clear about what they will and will not pay for ahead of time) and that they will need to save for these items or wait for a holiday or birthday if appropriate.  Being consistent is the key to maintaining good boundaries in this area.

4.  My teen puts me on the spot in front of their friends.  Let’s face it, teens are good at getting what they want.  One particularly effective technique they use is asking for something right in front of their friends, hoping that you will be more likely to say yes.  This could be asking to have the friend stay over, asking for a later curfew or asking for a few dollars.  The best way to maintain good boundaries around this is to not let it happen at all.  I have worked with parents who have learned to say, “as you know, these are not decisions we make on the spot like this so I will have to say no for now until we can discuss it privately”.  Keeping a friendly tone and being consistent will result in your teen no longer setting up this dynamic.

5.  My teen says they will help out around the house but they never do.  This can be very frustrating and often results in parents doing the chores their teens were expected to do because they cannot tolerate them not being done.  A couple of suggestions for this situation are:  1.  Implement an allowance system and ONLY give the allowance if the chores are done as you have agreed upon.  For example, if the trash is supposed to be taken out on Wednesdays and Saturdays and this week your teen only took it out on Saturday when it was overflowing because they did not do it on Wednesday then they should not be receiving their full allowance.  2.  Limit what you will do if they do not do what they agreed to do.  For example, if they are supposed to clean up the kitchen and do not, tell them you will not be able to make them dinner (they can make a sandwich or have some cereal instead).  If they do not cut the grass but then expect you to drive them to their friend’s house later in the day tell them you cannot hold up your end of the bargain to give them a ride if they did not hold up their end of the bargain to cut the grass.

Some of these things will create conflict in the moment the first one or two times you set the limits and stick with your boundaries, however, teens will quickly learn your limits and will stop attempting to fight them.  In addition, most of these techniques will also teach responsibility in teens who need to learn that relationships are generally cooperative in nature.  Finally, establishing these clear boundaries will allow you to reduce your stress and have some time for yourself.

Go to www.HowToParentATeen.com for a FREE audio program with specific techniques for parents of teenagers.  These tips will help with behavior, communication and your overall parent-teen relationship.

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Teenagers can present as ungrateful, like they cannot be bothered by you and like they could take you or leave you as their parent at times.  There is no arguing this and most parents of teenagers can identify with this at some point – whether all the time or occasionally.  Despite this, what I have seen happen over and over is that parents assume that their teenagers do not want to spend time with them and therefore they stop asking because they are tired of being rejected.  Although it makes sense that parents stop asking their teens if they want to spend time together, teens often times end up seeing this as a rejection and feel not cared about.

If you are saying to yourself that this does not make any sense you are right!  It doesn’t make logical sense that your teenager pushes you away and then gets hurt that you do not ask them if they want to spend more time with you, however, this is often times what happens.  One of the ongoing questions parents of teenagers ask themselves is “how involved should I be in my teen’s life?”  There is no clear answer or magic formula, however, your teen will notice if you stop trying to be involved.  It is a fine line and often confusing for parents who want to spend time with their teenagers but don’t want to feel like they are being controlling or overly involved.

I have worked with parents who were struggling with this issue and below are some of the suggestions we have come up with through the coaching process that have helped them identify ways they can offer to spend time with their teenagers in a way that is enjoyable for both them and their teenager.

  • Once every couple weeks, offer to take your teenager out for a meal on the way to or from another activity.  This will give you 1:1 time with them consistently and does not require them to miss out on other events with friends.
  • Mothers and daughters can go together to get manicures or pedicures.  Schedule a time where you can go at the same time and sit side by side so that you are talking during your time at the salon.
  • If you share a common hobby or interest with your teenager, this is a great way to spend time with them.  Golfing or playing baseball, tennis or volleyball is a great way for parents to spend time with their teenagers.  Or if you both enjoy reading or art, you can go together to the library or to shop for books or supplies.
  • Use car time as a way of spending time with your teenager.  If you are driving them to an appointment or to a friend’s house, try to use this time to talk to them in a casual manner so that they know you are available to them rather than having car rides in silence or with the radio turned up most of the time.
  • Schedule a family game night (or allow your teenager to invite a friend also).  This is a stretch for many teens but I have worked with teenagers who report that they truly enjoy such events.  Teens often enjoy sitting in the comfort of their home and playing games they enjoy with people who do not judge them.  It’s worth asking or trying!
  • Have one special meal together each week.  Maybe make it together, plan it together or go shopping for it together also.

Sometimes it takes some creativity but it is worth putting thought into things that would appeal to your teenager.   It is important to continue to offer your teenager opportunities to spend time with you – even if you think they will say they are not interested most times you ask.

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Parents often face challenges, resistance and uncertainly from their children (especially teenagers) when blending two families together.  For information about why this happens check out my blog titled Blending A Family:  Why This Can Be Such A Challenge With Teens here:  http://bit.ly/N1xxjW.  When going through this process, there are some things that parents can do to help their teenager.  Below are 5 tips for parents facing challenges in this process:

  1. Be patient.  Remember that this process takes time and that there are bound to be some bumps along the way.  Despite your eagerness to having things work out so that everyone is comfortable and happy, there will be an adjustment period that will take time.
  2. Be clear.  Don’t give your teenager any false hope or idea that you will back down from your plan to blend your families unless you are prepared to actually do this.  It is better to be clear with them about what is happening than to give the false hope or information about what is taking place.
  3. Make time for your teenager.  Even though they may reject your offers to spend time with them, it is important that you are offering it so that they still feel special. If there are things you did that used to just be the two of you that now include several other people (i.e. dinner time, watching television at night) you should try to carve out time periodically to do these activities – just you and your teen.  It is normal that they may resent having to share this time with others so it is important that you validate them in their feelings and help to make sure they feel included and important at all times.
  4. Establish routines.  Although teens will tell you they hate routines, they benefit greatly from them and actually feel better with the predictability of having a routine.  All of your routines will likely require some adjustment as you blend your families.  Try to get input from everyone about what will work and promote that everyone make some compromises as needed.  It is good to think about structuring things like morning routines, chores, having friends over, television watching, meal times, etc.
  5. Establish clear rules and be consistent.  You and your new partner will need to make some decisions about rules and consequences.  As I have discussed in other articles, your teenager needs to see you as a united front so you should never have disagreements about rules in front of them.  In addition, once you are able to establish rules, it is important to share them with your teenager upfront so that they are aware of your expectations and the consequences for not following them.

For more parenting support designed specifically for parents of teenagers go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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A parent skill that is very powerful with teenagers is Listening.  I know…this can seem like a very basic and obvious skill, however, this is not necessarily the case and this can be a tricky skill with teens sometimes.  The reason for this is because it can be scary for teenagers to think about how much they need you and rely on you, as their parent or guardian.  Think about how much energy they spend on pushing you away in an effort to prove how much they DON’T need you (which FYI they are trying to prove to themselves more than to anyone else).  Because of this, it is important for parents to take advantage of the opportunities when their teenagers WANT to talk to them and to be able to really listen fully when these opportunities arise.  When teens feel heard…they will be more likely to talk more.

Below are some tips and things to think about when listening to you teen:

  • Pay attention and be aware of when they want to talk – it is not always so obvious and they may not say, “do you have a minute to talk”.  They may be doing something else in an effort to get your attention, they may even be yelling or they may just make a point to be near you.  In such situations, you can simply say, “if there is anything you want to talk about I am here to listen”.  Keep is simple and don’t press them for information.
  • Be undistracted when they start talking – ignore the phone, TV or any other distractions around you as much as possible so that they feel they have your undivided attention and that what they are saying is important to you.
  • Make sure your body language gives the message you are listening – regardless of what they are saying, try to be relaxed, attentive and non-threatening while they are talking (if they are sitting, sit with them and don’t stand over them, etc).
  • Make conversations feel less threatening – sometimes sitting face to face is too much for teenagers.  Maybe talk while doing dishes, shooting a basketball, riding in the car, or doing some other activity.  This may take the pressure off them and make it easier for them to say what they really want to say.
  • Stay calm.  Being judgmental or having a strong emotional reaction will shut them down. If they feel like you are judging them or that they really upset you they will likely shut down and not come to you in the future.  This can be difficult to do since your teen may be talking about something that you disapprove of, something that scares you or even something that shocks you.  Trying to keep your emotions in control will allow the conversation to continue so that you can get all the information and let your teenager know that they can come to you, even in difficult situations.
  • Remember there is power in silence – sometimes just listening and hearing what they are saying without judging them is more effective than trying to offer advice.  If they feel they can really tell you what they want to say, they will be more likely to come to you again.
  • Respond in a way that keeps them talking – if you do respond to them, ask a non-threatening question or ask for clarification rather than just giving them your opinion or telling them what you think they should do.  Say something like, “that sounds difficult, what you do think you might want to do to make it better?”  You are not lecturing, advising or judging – you are being curious and letting them know you are interested in their thoughts.

I want to be clear that if your teenager has done something really wrong or if they are unsafe that you should not just sit and listen to them – in those situations you will need to step in with consequences or an intervention that is in the best interest of your child.  I am talking about all the other situations that arise where your teenager is working on being independent, trying to figure things out on their own and dealing with the difficult things that come up in the life of a teenager.  If they know you will listen – they will come to you and often times it matters less what you say and more that you are just there as a support to listen to them.

Go to www.HowToParentATeen to get more FREE parenting tips, to check out our parenting coaching programs and to sign up to get tips like this FREE every single week.

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It is recommended that teenagers get 9 hours of sleep per night because they are still having a lot of physical, emotional and brain growth which really does require this much sleep.  It can be a struggle for parents to get their teenager in bed at a reasonable time for a number of reasons:  teens get a lot of homework, have sports or other extra-curricular activity commitments that often going until later in the evening and of course teens also want to watch TV, play video games or chat with their friends via computer, text or phone.  Below are some tips that can assist you in getting your teenager to bed and asleep earlier and move them closer to that goal of 9 hours of sleep each night.

  • Keep a cool room – this is tough in the hot summer but it has been proven that people sleep much better in a cool room.
  • Adjust the lighting– when possible, dim the lighting in your house at 8 or 9pm.  Simply doing can create a more relaxing environment.
  • Try to not let them nap – many teenagers are tired after school and come home and nap.  This does not give them the time they need to refresh and results in their going to bed later and continuing in this cycle.
  • Encourage them to exercise at times other than right before bed – it is much harder to fall asleep if you are wound up after exercising.
  • Help them avoid caffeine – this will interfere with their sleep and many parents do need to place restrictions on their teen’s caffeine intake after school.
  • Teach calming techniques – whether it is listening to certain music, using a soothing scent like vanilla or lavender, drinking warm tea, reading, etc.  Try to help your teen explore activities that are soothing and calming for them.
  • Keep a schedule – this can be difficult but trying to have your teen going to bed and waking up during the week at the same time will help their body adjust to falling asleep earlier.  Also, not allowing them to stay up too late or sleep too late or all day on the weekends will further help with this.
  • Unplug at night – set a time for all electronics to be turned off and stick with it.  Remove them if you need to or set up a system where all wireless connections shut down at a certain time each night.
  • Be a good role model– even though as adults, our bodies are not growing and changing like a teenager’s body does,we need sufficient sleep also.  As you address your teen’s sleep needs – try to address your own also.

For more parenting tips and resources go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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“Island of Competence” is a term coined by Dr. Robert Brooks and is a term I love. What this is (and this applies to adults too), is a term for those things inIsland life that make us feel valuable and make us feel good about ourselves.  These are the things that give us a sense of accomplishment and that make us feel important despite all the things that can make us feel the opposite of this.  Our Islands of Competence are our strengths.  Teenagers need these islands in their lives so that they can feel connected, important and like they have something to contribute to the world.  Without this, they are swimming around in a sea of feeling like a failure, like they don’t belong, like they are not wanted and like they are not valuable.  Floating in this sea of negativity and loneliness for too long can have many potential negative consequences for teenagers (depression, anger, falling in with a negative crowd, engaging in at-risk behaviors or self-destruction).  If your teenager is experiencing any of these, you may want to seek professional help but also, really try to help them find their Islands of Competence.  Teens would much rather be involved in things that they can be proud of and which make them feel good about themselves than in negative things – they may just need some help, support and encouragement so that they are able to see what positive things they can offer the world.

So, as a parent, how can you help your teen find their Island of Competence? 

1.       Make a real effort to frame things in the positive when possible.   If your teenager is having difficulties in school that need to be addressed, make sure the discussion also includes the positive things they are doing because perhaps those things can be used to help resolve the negative things.

2.       Be open.  Be open to topics or interests your teenager brings up, even if they seem bazaar or unusual to you.  Try to keep an open mind and have your teen educate you about them.  Be interested and see if these interests can be channeled into a positive activity, hobby, etc.

3.       Reinforce the positive.  We get more of what we focus on so focusing on the positive things your teen is doing or the positive things they are expressing interest in will get you more of those things.  “Catch them being good” and don’t let the frustrating or negative things they are doing completely overshadow any positive things.  This will open their eyes to their own positive qualities as well.

4.       Help your teen reach outside their comfort zone.  Teens may sometimes have interests that are not “typical” teenage interests so they will talk themselves out of them because of their fear of what others may say or think.  Help them to not do this.  Help them to pursue their interests and feel safe doing this so that they are able to give new things a try.Father and boy

5.       Help them see their talents.  Take notice of all the little things your teen does well and tell them about these things as they come up.  Encourage other adults in their life to do the same.

6.       Help your teenager brainstorm ways of connecting with others around their strengths.  Whether it is sports, drawing, writing, singing, dancing, reading, debating, swimming, mentoring younger children, talking to or keeping the elderly company, caring for animals, science, bike riding, cooking, taking pictures, hiking, playing a musical instrument, volunteering, or so many other things…help them see how these things make them special, valuable and how they can been used to connect with others.  Sometimes this takes brainstorming on the part of parents also but it is well worth it to see your teenagers find their own Islands of Competence.

Go to the How To Parent A Teen website for more tips and support specific to Parenting Teens.

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