Posts Tagged ‘raising teenagers’

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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I truly love this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  This is so very, very true.  Our emotions will always carry more weight and stick with us more than words alone.  When someone says something important to us, it becomes important because of how we feel when we hear it – not because of the words alone.  The emotional response we have to something is what pulls us to it or makes us want to push it away. 

This is important to think about in all of the relationships in our lives – how we make others feel when they are around us will draw them towards us or make them want to push us away.  Teenagers have not figured this all out yet and often will say or do things that are hurtful, insulting, and frustrating without giving it a second thought.  In these situations, it is important for parents to let their teenager know how what they did or what they said made THEM feel.  This will help raise their awareness to the fact that what they do impacts others emotionally in addition to allowing parents to express their dissatisfaction about a situation in a way that won’t necessarily turn into a big argument (if you tell your teenager how what they did made you feel, they cannot argue that you did not feel the way you are saying you did – it makes what you are saying less difficult to challenge).  This role modeling ongoing will make an impact over time.

On the other side, this quote is true for your teenagers also.  They will often forget the content of lectures, the details of the conversations and the explanation of why you have certain rules in place, however, they will not forget how you made them feel during these moments and in your general day-to-day interactions with them.  Do you make them feel like everything single thing they do is wrong, do you make them feel like their ideas and visions are stupid or unrealistic, do you make them feel like they are nothing but a pain in your household, do you make them feel like all they do is disappoint you, do you make them feel like they are the cause of all of your problems, do you make them feel like you wish you had another child instead of them OR do you make them feel important, special, valuable and worthy of having love on a daily basis?  Remember – one way of making them feel will cause them to pull away or push you away and the other will draw them to you.

I am not suggesting that you will never be angry, frustrated, annoyed and fed up with your teenager.  All of these feelings are normal for parents of teenagers and are in response to the challenges faced when raising a teenager. When you do have them, it is okay to acknowledge them, understand why you are having them and communicate them appropriately to your teenager in terms of how what they said or did made you feel and why.  But…what you also need to be communicating to them on an ongoing basis is that they are important to you, that they matter and that no matter what, you care about them and want what is best for them.  Remember, how they feel will stick with them in a more powerful way than just words being spoken to them.

Children who feel good about themselves and who feel important have more confidence and courage to be out there in the world, doing important things and passing along their value to others.  Children who feel awful about themselves, who feel like inconveniences and who do not feel important get lost in the world and don’t rise to their full potential.  Or…even worse…they “live down” to the negative feelings and expectations that have been instilled in them.

A great skill for all parents who want to better connect with their teenagers and who want to make sure they are creating those positive feelings is Validation.  If you download this free audio program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers, you can have instant access to an audio tutorial where I will walk you though this skill and give you examples of how to start using it with your teenager immediately.  It transforms relationships.

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Have you ever caught your teenager in a lie?  Of course you have!  All teenagers tell lies at some point.  Now before we all panic, this is not the end of the world at all.  Sometimes when I hear about lies they tell I don’t even know why they felt they had to lie in certain situations.  Remember, teenagers are going through a massive transformation in a fairly short period of time.  They are confused, trying to find their identity, experimenting with new things, and trying to be calm, cool and collected through all of this!  There are typically 3 things which drive teenagers to tell lies:

1.  To keep up appearances in front of their peers:  teens want to fit in, to feel like they belong and want to impress others.  Because of this, they will often lie about something they have, did or said to try to be the person they think their peers want them to be.

2.  To try to avoid facing up to the consequences for something they should not have done:  who wants to be yelled at, grounded, or in trouble for anything – especially teens.  So they will often tell a lie or lie by omission in order to avoid the consequences of something they did.

3.  To be able to do things their parents would otherwise not let them do:  teenagers are at a stage where they are experimenting and trying new things (many of which parents would not approve) so they lie about where they are, who they are with and the specifics of what they are doing so that their parents won’t tell them they can’t go out.

So, what should you do if you catch your teenager lying to you.  Let’s start with what you should not do and that is, you should not worry that this is something that will define their character for life – it will not.  As I said, all teenagers lie at some point and it does not doom them to a life of dishonesty or criminal activity.  With that said…lying is still not acceptable and they should be held accountable for their behaviors.  Some teens will really try to hold onto a lie if they feel there is even the slightest chance it will help them avoid negative consequences.  This can be really frustrating and hurtful for parents.  When this happens, sit down and speak with your teenager about your feelings and concerns with their lying (and only do this if you are in a calm state).  In all instances where you catch your teenager lying, let them know that you are hurt that they tried to deceive you and that you want to be able to trust them.  It often helps if you validate them by saying something like, “I know what it is like to want to do something you can’t do” or “I know that you did not want to get in trouble”.  Let them know you understand what the motive for the lie was and then tell them that lying damages trust and relationships.  Reinforce with them that you work really hard to be honest with them and that you need the same in return.  Try to keep the conversation focused and don’t let it drag on – make your point but don’t lecture on and on because you will likely lose their focus and you increase the chances the discussion will turn into an argument.

Then, discuss with your teenager what the consequence will be.  If were really angry or hurt by their lying, take some time to think about an appropriate consequence so that you don’t issue a consequence out of emotion.  As in all situations, make the consequence appropriate, time limited and enforceable.  If the situation will make it harder for you to trust them, let them know how they can start working to build this trust back with you and be open to their efforts to do this.

Do you want more tips about parenting teenagers?  Like us on Facebook for a FREE Report for Parent’s of Teenagers and to get regular tips and updates.  Also – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com for a free audio program for parents of teenagers.

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I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this!!  Whether it is the color of their hair, a new piercing, boys with long hair, girls with really short hair, clothes too baggy, clothes too tight or some other “teenage fashion” – it happens.  You wake up one day and look at your teenager and think – I can’t believe they are going out looking like that!  As a parent you may feel angry, embarrassed, frustrated or just plain exhausted with their quest for independence.  Before we go any further, let’s dissect this a bit more…so that you can figure out what is driving this emotion for you.  For some parents, having their teenager dressing or grooming differently than how they were raised feels disrespectful.  For other parents, it is another example of how their teen is going against what they taught them and it just plain makes them mad.  And let’s just be honest, for some, it is embarrassing.  Parents don’t want to show up for a holiday with their teenager who has blue hair and have to answer the questions of judgmental relatives for the next 5 hours and understandably so!  For some parents, how their teen looks feels like a reflection of the quality of their parenting so there is fear that they will be negatively judged if they have a child who does not just blend in with the “norm”.

Finally, in some instances, parents fear for their teenagers safety which tends to be more common for girls but can apply to boys as well.  Some parents become concerned that their daughter is wearing clothes that are too revealing or which may lead others to believe they are much older than they are.  Although, sadly, this is often what is promoted by the media – in such situations you should intervene and try to educate your teenager about the potential dangers of dressing in a provocative manner.  Unfortunately, there ARE people who will prey on teens who dress in a way that (whether intentionally or unintentionally) gives off the message that they may be promiscuous because they are willing to reveal a lot of their body with how they dress.  If your teenager is in this category and does not seem to be responding to your efforts to non-judgmentally educate them about any dangers or who are putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations, you may want to have them speak with a professional who can help you both understand what is driving this behavior.

However, for most teenagers, this is just part of their process of growing up and teenagers take their “differentness” to varying levels.  I was recently working with a parent who was concerned because her son was letting his hair get too long.  She felt like it would negatively affect his college interviews and was honest enough to also admit that it was embarrassing for her because her family gave her a hard time about it.  What was happening, however, was that her stress about her son’s appearance was causing her to have a lot of negative emotions towards him which he resented and therefore he started pulling away from her.  Through coaching, we were able to come up with a specific plan for her to re-engage with her teenager.   It involved her not addressing his appearance at all (which was not easy!) and to focus instead on what they were doing together, how he was doing in school and at home with chores, and just simply enjoying one another’s day-to-day company and interactions.  It was amazing for her to see how powerful this hair thing had become in their lives.  He had become defensive in all their interactions because he knew she would bring up his hair, and she became angry and frustrated because he was not willing to hear her pleads for him to cut his hair.  The hair became the center of their relationship and resulted in their not communicating, enjoying being around one another and both were feeling pretty bad about it.

When the hair subject was taken off the table you would be amazed at what happened!  I want to be clear that this did not happen overnight but it did happen much quicker than my client may have imagined.  She stopped talking about the hair.  We came up with some great strategies she could use to help her let go of this topic (even though she still wanted him to cut his hair) and refocus on their relationship.  After about a week or two, they began engaging more and talking more.  Her son was able to see that they could have a conversation that did not turn to her criticizing his hair so he was more willing to engage and spend time with his mother.  Then the real kicker happened – his FRIENDS started telling him they did not like his hair long and that they thought he looked better with it a little shorter.  He also realized that it was somewhat of a pain to take care of as it continued to get longer and that he was not looking as good as he may have wanted with the long hair.  Then…TA DA…he showed up at home after school one day with short hair one day.  My client had the sense to not make too big of a deal about this – she simply told him he looked handsome and then focused on how the rest of his day went.  She knew not to make this the focus because there was a control piece to this whole thing.  My client’s son was trying to exercise his independence by having his hair the length HE wanted it and when she was insisting it should be short – he only wanted to keep it long.  Now, it was his decision to have it short so she was very wise to let him keep it as his decision and not say anything like, “it’s about time” or “I told you that you looked better with short hair”.

You see, often times this is a phase that teenagers go through but the phase can have a valuable purpose.  Some teens do this to rebel from their parents, some to just try to exert some control in their lives which sometimes feels out of control to them and for some, they are just trying on a new look to see how it feels and to see if it helps them define themselves.  As hard as it can be, if there are not safety issues at play, parents are wise to let their teenagers go through this process.  Don’t define them solely by their looks and continue to appreciate them as a whole person.  You can be honest with them and tell them that it is not your first choice of a look for them (because they are going to pick up on this anyway) but that you still love them just the same and want them to dress and look in a way that is comfortable for them.  And then…most importantly…show them this with your actions.  Accept them for who they are and don’t make them feel “less than” based on their looks.

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Teenage gambling is a behavior that can be addicting and very problematic for some teenagers. It has been reported that 70+ percent of all teenagers engage in some form of gambling and that up to 1/3 of those may develop and actual addiction to gambling. Gambling is often not considered as serious as other addictions such as alcohol or drug use, however, it can be very destructive to both the lives of teenagers as well as of their families. A gambling addiction is a very real problems and like other addictions, many teenagers are not able to stop despite the negative consequences of their behavior. Teenagers with gambling addictions spend money faster than they have it and often resort to stealing or selling items as a means of getting more money so that they can get the “next win”. Teens may engage in gambling online, in poker games with friends or by betting on sports games. I have seen situations where teenagers lost interest in other activities because they are so preoccupied with their gambling. They are always looking for the rush of the next win or dealing with the stress of trying to find money to pay for their latest losses.

As with any addiction, it is best to intervene early on so, as a parent, it is important for you to be aware of the potential warning signs that your teenager may have a gambling problem:

  • Either debt that cannot be explained or lost of money that cannot be explained
  • Stealing from friends of family
  • Missing household or personal items (which they may have sold)
  • Appears to get very upset when watching sports on TV if particular teams are losing (beyond normal emotions associated with sports)
  • Often on the computer or phone checking scores of games
  • Borrowing significant amounts of money from friends or family
  • Lying
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Distracted and decreased performance in school
  • Gambling sites in browser history

None of these warning signs alone means your teenager has a problem with gambling, however, they are red flags and if you see them, you should investigate further.

As is the case with any addiction, intervening early on and getting professional help will increase the change of successful treatment. Gambling in teenagers should not be minimized – it is serious and can have very serious consequences. Teens who gamble self destruct financially but also often place themselves at serious physical risk if they are not able to pay back their debts. If you are a parent and are concerned that your teenager is gambling, you should get support for yourself and your teenager so that you can address this behavior in the most effective way.

For more parenting tips go to the How To Parent A Teen Website or follow us on Twitter @KarenParentTeen.

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Does it feel like your child turned into a different being once adolescence hit?  Well, they very well may have.  The good news is that there was not an alien take over, the bad news is that this is unfortunately very common and you, as the parent, feel the brunt of it.  Understanding it does not completely change it, however, it can make it better and it does seem to help parents better manage their own emotional responses to the behaviors of their teenagers. The information I am sharing does not describe every teen boy or may not describe your teenager 100%, however, it is meant to offer some feelings of normalcy about what you may be experiencing with your teenager as well as an understanding of why some of these behaviors are typical of teen boys.

Why is my son so different since he hit adolescence?

Do you lack communication with your teen son?  Do you feel like they live in their room and you hardly see them let alone know anything that is going on in their life?  Are they constantly out with friends yet you have no idea who thesefriend are, who their families are or what they do when they spend time together?  Do they decline your offers to spend time doing family things?  If any or all of these scenarios apply to your son, you have a pretty typical teenage boy.

So what is going on?  The first and strongest reason for boys behaving in this way is that they are working towards achieving independence and in order to do this, they need to separate from you, who they have depended on for so many years of their life.  They do not know how to do this thoughtfully or gracefully (or may not even really realize they are doing it) so they just isolate from you as a way of not feeling so dependent on you.  It kind of makes sense if you think about it in this way, although it does not make it any less frustrating or concerning when you are on the receiving end of it.  Secondly, it is normal for boys to be embarrassed about changes going on as their bodies mature.  Boys also experience an increase in sexualized feelings which can be overwhelming and not something they want to discuss with their parents.  Finally, it is very normal during adolescence for friends to become more important than parents or other family members.  This is not a negative reflection on the family but rather a shift from seeing the family as the center of the world to really wanting to discover the larger world that is out there as a way of establishing independence.

Often times mothers feel this pulling back more than fathers do.  This is because mothers are generally seen as the nurturers and the caretakers (although not always) and therefore sons need to push their mothers away in order to begin to create their independence.  This is obviously very concerning for a mother who may try harder to reach out to her son in an effort to increase communication and to remain actively involved in his life.  This, however, is actually not helpful and can create and increase in opposition, isolation or family discord.  Understanding the reason for the behavior can be helpful for mothers so that they do not take this pulling back personally and can allow their son some space to begin to develop independence.  Sometimes this pulling back is not so obvious with fathers, however, it still exists.  Sons may connect with their fathers around other things (playing sports, a game on the TV, a project in the house) while maintaining an emotional distance during this time of developing independence.

Boys more often than girls will isolate and avoid confrontation when possible.  However, that is not to say that boys do not display strong, negative emotions towards their parents which can be scary and very problematic.  Yelling by adolescent males can be very aggressive and threatening in nature and at times the anger turns physical which can result in their throwing things, breaking things and at times even lashing out physically at a parent.  As is already stated, this can be very scary – for both the adolescent who has likely grown in size and strength and for the parent.  It is never acceptable for children to break things or cause harm to others in the household.  It is also never acceptable for parents to become physically aggressive with their children (it is illegal for starters) which can leave parents feeling like they are ineffective and helpless.  In such situations, the use of outside support may be necessary in order to prevent further aggressive outbursts and to keep everyone in the home (including the individual who was demonstrating the aggression) feeling safe.  Sometimes (although every situation is certainly different) giving your teenage boy a little bit of space and alone time when they are feeling upset is helpful in preventing such an outburst.  This does not mean that you do not ask them to follow through with certain expectations or that you avoid having difficult conversations with them…it just means that you do it at a time where they are more in control of their emotions which ultimately leads to a more productive interaction for both you and your son.

There is certainly much more information related to what makes teenage boys tick, however, this overview is meant to help you, as the parent, gain an understanding about what may be going on for your child which will help you make decisions that are best for you and your family regarding how to deal with your teenage son effectively.  I do want to stress that while most boys go through this process of isolation or distancing safely, there are others who experience significant difficulties during this difficult period of transition.  Some adolescent boys begin to use drugs and/or alcohol as a way of gaining confidence in social situations or for managing their confusing emotions.  Others become involved in negative peer groups and succumb to the peer pressures associated with criminal activity.  As is stated above, some become emotionally out of control and become aggressive and violent.  If you have real concerns about such behaviors, you should consult with an expert who can help you determine if additional support or help is needed.

As the parent, you know your teen the best.  Trust your instincts while allowing yourself to be open to understanding what might be going on for them.  And, one of the most important things to remember while enduring the stress that can be associated with parenting a teenager while dealing with everything else in your life, is that you need to take time for yourself, do the things you enjoy and practice good self-care on a regular basis.

Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/KarenParentTeen or go to our How To Parent A Teen website for additional resources and programs designed specifically for parents of teenagers.

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I can remember being a teenager on a luxurious vacation with my family in the Caribbean and caring about nothing more than what I was missing with my friends due to being away from home.  In the summertime we would go to Nantucket on our boat and I remember being so angry with my parents that they MADE me go on a summer vacation because it meant I might be missing out on something with my friends at home.  What I wouldn’t give now to have those problems!!!

The point is that for most teenagers, nothing is more important than having friends and fitting in.  Especially for teenage girls – often their moods are dictated by what is going on with their friends.  When they are having successful relationships with their friends they are feeling good and are in good moods.  When they are struggling with friendships, feeling “out of the loop” or inadequate – watch out!  They will often present with an intense negative mood regardless of what else is going on in their lives.

As most people are aware, teenage girls can be cruel, jealous and quite vicious at times.  Relational Aggression is a term which refers to the way in which girls can be mean to one another through low-level bullying, gossiping, ignoring and excluding and through verbal attacks.  The result of this relational aggression can be devastating for teenage girls.  Being excluded from the lunch table, the weekend outing, the online chat group, etc. can cause teenage girls to feel worthless, alone and extremely insecure.

Teenage girls often judge their value by where they stand in social groups which can cause significant stress, anxiety and uncertainty.  Once teenage girls are able to form solid, longer lasting friendships, their reaction to this social pressure decreases.  Being in with the most popular group becomes less important as girls get older and as they begin to form solid relationships with a smaller group of friends who they trust and care about as individuals.

As a parent, this can be a very difficult stage to witness.  It can be heartbreaking to witness the sadness of your teenage daughter if she is feeling like she does not fit in or if she is on the receiving end of bullying or exclusion.  What can be helpful is to know that this is a stage that will usually pass as girls reach their 20’s and into their mid 20’s (sometimes earlier).  Parents should not interfere in these friendships  (unless there are true safety concerns) since this will likely create further problems for their teenager or result in their teenager resenting them.

A few helpful suggestions for parents who have teenagers experiencing difficulties due to social pressures are:

  • Be there to listen to them when they are ready to talk about what is going on with their peers or to talk about how they are feeling.
  • You can gently offer suggestions but being too directive or telling them what they should do could result in their shutting down from you.
  • Don’t try to minimize what they are reporting or feeling.  Don’t say, “things aren’t that bad”,  “people DO like you”, etc.  If they are telling you it is really bad then that is what it feels like for them so you should validate how they are feeling about the situation.
  • You may want to offer them an opportunity to have different exposure to social situations.  This may give them an opportunity to have some success with a different peer group while they are trying to sort out the difficulties they are experiencing.  For example, if you daughter is having trouble with peers at school you may want to explore finding her other, out of school activities where she can meet a new peer group.  A dance class, sports league, YMCA, music classes and art classes are all great places for teens to become involved in group activities with their peers.

As I stated above, witnessing your teenager experiencing difficulties with peers can be very painful to watch.  Even with the most connected and loving family, a teenage girl will experience significant distress if she is not feeling connected to a group of friends.  The good news is that this phase will inevitably pass and generally girls are able to form solid, trustworthy social networks as they move into adulthood.

For more information related to Parent Teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com where you can access our audio program designed specifically for parents of teenagers.

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