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Posts Tagged ‘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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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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“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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Parenting a teenager (or any child for that matter) is not an easy job, yet it is the most important job in the world.  Parents are faced with daily challenges and decisions that need to be made based on their gut, intuition and common sense – as well as being based on the love and committment they have for their children.  This sometimes leads parents to just want to make difficult situations their children are facing go away – why wouldn’t they?  They love their children and don’t want to ever see them in pain, in trouble or suffering in any way.  The problem is this however…pain, trouble and suffering are all part of the human experience.  I know we don’t like to think about it but throughout our lives, we are always going to be faced with challenges, with situations that scare us and with situations that make us sad.  These situations are part of life and we will need to deal with them when they cross our paths and children will need to deal with these same things when they are adults.

So as a parent, rather than rescuing your child from the tough stuff,  you want to give them the tools they will need to deal with stress, frustration, fear, sadness and all the other things that WILL affect them in their adults lives.  You will want them to learn the skills to deal with these situations when they are children, rather than when they are adults and the stakes are much higher.

Below are a few tips you can use when these difficult situations arise for your child so that you are teaching them skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives:

1.  Help them talk about the situation calmly:  role model being calm yourself and help your child learn to express what they are feeling and what their dilemma’s are in a clear, calm manner

2.  Help them review all options available to them:  don’t give them the solution but rather, ask questions that will help them see all of the possibilities they have for solving their situation in a way that results in the best overall outcome

3.  Resist the urge to give them the answer or to intervene on their behalf:  try to hold back, even if it is difficult, and give them the space to try to figure out how best to proceed when they are in a difficult situation (obviously if there are safety concerns you should intervene and do whatever is necessary to keep your teen and others safe)

4.  Offer suggestions for dealing with difficult emotions:  children need to learn frustration tolerance and emotional management skills which will allow them to be more effective in managing difficult situations.  Listening to music to calm down, exercising, talking, writing or journaling, distracting their mind, deep breathing and many other activities can help when emotions are high and thinking becomes clouded

5.  Support them in developing a plan to avoid a similar situation in the future:  rather than lecturing, blaming and telling them what they did wrong, encourage them to talk to you about how they think they can avoid having a similar situation happen again in the future.

It can be tempting to fix things and make life as easy for those people who you love the most, however, when you do that, valuable lessons get lost and the development of critical skills does not take place, leaving children without the necessary skills they need to be successful in their adult life.  For more information and parenting advice, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com and sign up for our weekly Ezine and Free Audio Program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers. 

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Have you heard the term “Helicopter Parents”?  This is a term that is frequently used for a particular parenting style in which parents “rescue” their children from the difficult things that come their way in life.  Parents who are Helicopter Parents will often make excuses for their children, take their child’s perspective of a situation at face value without looking at all the facts, blame others for their child’s behaviors or difficulties and take steps to eliminate any discomfort their child may be experiencing due to their bad behaviors.  It is understandable how parents fall into this particular parenting style – if you love your children, you don’t want to see them suffering or uncomfortable so you do what you can when situations arise that bring up these difficult emotions.  However, what happens when parents use a Helicopter Parenting style is that they don’t allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, they don’t foster positive decision-making in their children and they are not teaching their children to be responsible for themselves.  In many ways, Helicopter Parents do a disservice to their children because they don’t let them experience difficult things as children (when the stakes are much lower) which can cause major problems for them as adults.

If you have a tendency to fall into this parenting style – this post is not to make you feel bad but rather to offer some insight into why this is not always the most effective parent style and some tips for adjusting what you may be doing.  If you function as a Helicopter Parent, your child will continue to depend on you to solve their problems and will look to you to blame others for their mistakes.  It may result in less conflict in the moment (since we all know that children – especially teenagers – can lash out when you are holding them accountable for something), however, they are not learning anything other than to come running to you when the going gets tough which will be exhausting for you!

Below are a few tips to consider which will help you not fall into this parenting trap and which will help your child grow into a responsible, independent adult:

1.  Be an advocate, not a rescuer:  of course your child will need you for support or to help them out if things are difficult and this is part of your role as their parent.  When you function as an advocate, you support your child, you help make sure they are heard and you step in when you need to.  However, what you don’t do, is bail them out of all the difficult situations they experience.  For example:  Your child is struggling in a particular class because they get a lot of homework and they are not seeming to understand the information learned in class so they are doing poorly on their homework assignments.  As an advocate, you may set up a meeting with the teacher and talk about ways of getting your child extra support in the subject matter so that they are able to understand and complete their homework.  What you would NOT do is go to the school, attack the teaching by saying they are not teaching effectively and demand that your child be moved to a different class with less homework.

2. Validate them but don’t always agree with them:  validating your child shows you are listening, you are understanding what they are experiencing and let’s them know you can appreciate that something is difficult for them even if you don’t fully understand why or if you don’t agree with their perspective.  For example:  Your child has a sports game and does poorly in a game.  They complain that the coach was being unfair or that their teammates were not helping them be successful during the game and they are really upset about it.  You may know that the reality is that they skipped 2 practices and stayed up late the night before the game and that they simply did not play as well as they typically do.  In this situation, you can validate them by saying that you know they are upset because playing well is important to them and acknowledge that it can be really frustrating to know they can play better.  If you do this, they will feel heard and supported but you will not reinforce their view that everyone else is to blame for their bad game.

3.  Let them sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come with mistakes:  this is a really important tip.  Children need to experience being uncomfortable and learn to manage it.  Our feelings drive our behaviors so when children are feeling uncomfortable, it will influence their behaviors which is important.  This can be difficult to watch but it is life and a much better lesson to learn as children than as adults when the consequences and stakes are much higher.  For example, if you teenager cannot get up for school on time and ends up with a Saturday detention that causes them to miss something they were really looking forward to, it is much less of a consequence than showing up late for work as an adult and being fired and then unable to support oneself.  If children are always comfortable, they will never learn to make good decisions because they know that regardless of what they decide that you will make them comfortable again.

Loving your children is critical and necessary for their positive growth, however, rescuing them can actually stunt their emotional growth and development.  For additional parenting tips go to How To Parent A Teen and sign up for our free, weekly Ezine.

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As my family is currently dealing with the serious illness of a family member…I am taking time to reflect on how I spend my days, how I notice the moments in my life and how I try to make each day count.  And to be honest with you…I am not sure I always do the best job with this.  Isn’t it easy to just let a day, then two days, then three days go by without really even noticing what is important or what makes you happy?  I think most of us get caught up in this trap – just getting through the day and thinking about how you will plan out your next day.  I am often planning out my next weekend on Monday – what about Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday??? Can’t those be good, important and meaningful days too? Of course they can be but I think we all miss the boat sometimes.  We get too caught up in being pulled in too many directions and we lose…we miss out…and it is time we will never get back.  It takes work but bringing awareness to each day, reflecting on what is good and on what is important each day and making sure that we are taking advantage of the moments we have can create a much more fulfilling life.

Have you ever noticed that you can take a trip somewhere and notice all the beautiful things you see, smell and hear as you are driving or walking?  This is because you are tuned in.  I remember doing this one time while on a weekend away in New Hampshire in the fall.  All the beautiful colors, the crisp air and the calmness I felt.  Then I got home and realized all the same colors and the same crisp air were present at home but where was the calmness?  Why did I not see the colors or feel the air in the same way?  What I realized was it was all still there – I was just not taking the time to notice it all as I had when I was away.  I was not being conscious and mindful.

So – I challenge us all (myself included) to take a few moments each morning and each evening to make each day count by doing the following:

1. Each morning:  wake up, set an intention for the day, make a conscious decision to make the day count (even if it is busy, crazy and overwhelming), appreciate the people in your life and know that life is what we make of it

2. Each evening:  reflect on your day, appreciate what you have in your life, let those who you care about know you care and focus on what is positive instead of dwelling on the negative (even if you are frustrated, angry or upset)

Our minds are powerful and we can choose to live our lives in a powerful and meaningful way or we can choose to focus on all the wrongs in the world and the negative things that have been done to us.  Which do you choose?

Go to How To Parent A Teen for free information, products and programs designed specifically for parents of teenagers.

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