We can all remember how tough it was being a teenager. Coping with your body changing, mood swings and trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Being a parent during the teenage years is just as trying. There are so many factors nowadays that weren’t a concern before, from unhealthy lifestyles to drug and alcohol exposure, even digital challenges such as cyber-bullying.
So how exactly do you raise a healthy teen? Check out this guide for both physical and mental tips for raising a teenager.
Before You Can Even Start
Before you can even begin to focus on raising a healthy teen, you need to educate yourself to the challenges they’re facing in the 21st century. Even as short as 10 years ago is not the same as today, and teens now are exposed to much more than back then.
Do some research into the lifestyle and influence challenges that a regular teenager faces on a daily basis. From bad influences, they may encounter to being surrounded by positive people and role models, you need to be in touch with their lives as much as possible.
Here’s where it gets tricky, a teenager will pull away from a parent that feels too involved or too controlling, so be mindful of this.
Take an interest in their lives, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their friends and their social lives, but do it in such a way that you’re not coming across as nosey, but simply that you’re interested.
This will also open their mind to the fact that you’re there to talk to if they need you.
If they feel like they can talk to you about anything, you’ve already overcome half the obstacle.
Don’t be too hard on them if they come to you for advice or with a problem they’re having, be a voice of reason, if you overreact to a situation, it may stop them from coming to you in the future.
1. Give Your Teen Some Freedom
Your teenage child is at a stage of their lives where they’re figuring out the type of adult that they will become.
This means they’re making new friends, then breaking up with them and finding new friends, they’re finding boyfriends and girlfriends, they’re changing social circles for more often than you care to keep track of.
It’s perfectly normal.
You need to give them some freedom to make their own decisions. This includes allowing them the freedom to perhaps befriend someone who may not initially approve of, but if you give them some leeway, they’re more likely to have these people around at your home, where you can know what’s going on.
Within reason though, if this person is a blatant, bad influence then approach the subject objectively with your teenager, and let them know how you feel.
It will stop your teen from having to tell you little white lies about where they’re going or what they’re doing.
2. But Not Too Much Freedom
Okay, we just told you to give them the freedom to figure things out for themselves, but on the other hand, you don’t want to give them too much freedom. They’re still your children and you still need to guide them as best you can.
There are a few things you can do to keep them in your life permanently, here are some:
Make Family Dinner Mandatory
There’s nothing that makes for better quality time than having the opportunity to talk about your day together, as a family, to unwind and bond over the good and the bad things that have happened.
The best opportunity to do this is over family dinner. Pick one or two evenings per week that family dinner is mandatory for all family members, this includes both parents and/or all adults in the house.
If you start to postpone or cancel, then your teen won’t take family dinner as seriously as he should.
The fact is, family dinner is a great time to “just hang out with the family and chat”, so your teen won’t feel surrounded or bullied if you’re trying to get them to talk about things.
Cheaper By The Dozen Inspiration
We all remember the talking stick from the film, Cheaper by the dozen, okay, so you might not have 12 children, but the idea is to have a time where you can discuss big family decisions together, as a family.
Give your teen a platform where they can talk about things in an open, honest forum with their family. And ensure that everybody in the family gets the opportunity to have their say.
Hence us mentioning the talking stick.
Make sure that everyone gets a chance to talk, without being interrupted.
The rules are simple, feedback should only be given at the end of each person’s grievance, problem or complaint and the feedback should be positive, encouraging and constructive.
Simply Ask Them How They Are
We all know that life can get quite intense, with busy schedules, long work days, extramural commitments and housework to name a few.
But find a few minutes at the end of each day, even if you’re simply cleaning the kitchen after dinner, and simply ask them how they are.
Ask them how their science test went, or if they made the football team.
Ask them how other kids are treating them at school.
Ask them if there are any subjects they’re finding difficult at school.
Ask them if they need your help with anything.
Sometimes your teenager just needs to know that they’re important, and this short 5-minute conversation can make them feel special if you seem genuinely interested in their life.
3. Have Reasonable Expectations
Every social circle has them, the parents who force their unrealized dream onto their children, don’t be that guy. This is the time where your teenager needs to be setting their own goals, and their own plans on how to achieve them.
Now might be the time that your teenage child believes they may be the next big violin player, or perhaps they’ve shown a sudden interest in chess.
You need to show the ultimate support for their passions.
Let them figure out how they’re going to be their best self, without feeling like they’re disappointing you if they don’t aim to be the next member of the American Ballet.
4. Know The Signs
Following on from tip 3, if you’re putting too much pressure on them for your own selfish reasons, it could lead them down into a spiraling depression. If your teen is showing signs of depression, then you need to seek teen depression treatment.
Knowing the signs of what to look for is paramount to knowing if there’s a problem or not.
You’re looking for drastic changes in behavior or eating patterns. Have they all of a sudden stopped inviting friends over?
Have their grades dropped significantly from one semester to the next without reason?
Perhaps they’ve stopped eating as much as they usually do, or you can smell alcohol on their breath when they come home from school.
Know the signs, and be attentive. If you’re seeing any of these, then approach the subject carefully, you don’t want your teenager to feel attacked or under the microscope, it may be easier to reach out to a friend, or if they have a favorite aunt or cousin, ask them to have a talk if your teenager doesn’t want to open up to you.
5. Just Love and Appreciate Them
It sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? Of course we all love and appreciate our children, but when is the last time you showed them or told them as much?
Teenagers crave attention, and especially the type that lets them know that their parents understand them, appreciate them, and accept them.
You can create a relationship with your teenager that makes you the parent, as well as a close friend. We all know that saying, “Don’t talk to me like that, I’m your mother, not your friend!”
You’ve got it all wrong if you find yourself saying that. It’s possible to maintain a friendship with your teenager as well as the have the respect they should be giving you.
Friendship is made up of respect and authenticity, so perhaps consider opening up about your day and talking to them about challenges that you’ve faced.
You won’t only be showing them that you respect their opinion, but that you trust their judgment, it will go a very long way.
The Art Of Raising a Teenager
Remember that being a teenager can sometimes be more difficult than raising a teenager, and vice versa. The key is to pursue a healthy, open relationship with your teen.
Keep the channels of communication open. Make sure your home is an environment that is positive and encouraging for them to come home to after a hard day at school.
Serve healthy food, show the love and give hugs and attention when needed.
If you have other concerns with your children’s health, head on over to our special section dealing with just that!