The world has changed an awful lot in the last forty years. The advent of the internet has indescribably transformed what it is like to grow up. Many parents have no point of reference for what their teenagers are experiencing. From cyber-bullying to drug addiction and violence, there are a multitude of challenges the modern parent faces.
Don’t Let Them Push Your Buttons
Being an adult means being able to act maturely in a difficult situation. Your teenager will doubtlessly shock you as they are in the process of casting off their childhood identity and forging a new one. They are undergoing a physical and mental revolution, so you should expect consequences. But in the process of doing so, they are likely to become sulky, antagonistic and experiment with behaviours you might not agree with.
As they challenge authority, parents are likely to experience these unpleasant behaviours. However, you are still a parent and should endeavour to stay calm, don’t react to antagonising behaviour with behaviour you do not want to teach them. Nurture teenagers with your patience and you will teach them that bad behaviour achieves nothing.
Try to Empathise
If your teenager’s behaviour shocks you, try to understand where it stems from. Try talking to them and asking them to explain things you cannot comprehend. Sometimes a teenager will not understand themselves why they have done something. The riot of hormones coursing through their bodies can make them display a wide range of unpleasant behaviours. Ultimately you should try to understand this rather than the individual facts of a situation.
In your teenage years you are forging your adult identity. There may be things that your teenager may not want you to know about for no other reasons than that they want to have a private life. Of course, if this involves talking to strangers online about sex or drugs it is a cause for concern, but if you read your teenager’s diary, text messages or Facebook messages you are breaking your teenagers’s trust. Once that has been eroded it is very hard to rebuild.
If you create an environment where they can approach you from a young age about anything they are curious about or confused about without being judgemental they are less likely to hide things from you. However, if you project your beliefs onto them and punish them for beliefs or behaviour that do not fit with your view of the world, you are likely to push them away to seek other role models that allow them to express themselves.
Be a Parent Not a Friend
You are a parent. You should expect some degree of rebellion against you. Do not however, interpret this as a rejection, it is merely part of your role. You should not forget, no matter how strong your relationship is with your teenager, that you are the parent, not their friend. It is your job to say things they may not want to hear and to hold them to account. Keep in mind that this is just a difficult phase and in years to come they will come around and you can have a more balanced relationship with them when they are adults.