Combining her accomplishments as a teacher, coach, therapist, mentor, sacred space holder and her admiration for women everywhere, Niki Moss Simpson launched SHINE. SPARKLE. RADIATE in 2017. In March 2019 Niki launched her first book as co-author of the best selling Pay It Forward series: Notes to My Younger Self. In an exclusive article for MumAbroad Life, Niki talks about teens and their needs.
And the teenage years are definitely not easy years to parent. A glass of wine, selective hearing and friends as equally confused as you, make it all a little bearable.
But can you remember what it was like to be a teenager yourself? Can you remember how you felt misunderstood, awkward, swinging from one mood to another in the blink of a rolling eye or a loudly voiced disapproving tut?
Well, yes, it’s a different decade and yes, lots has changed and yes, of course you had things much worse but certain things remain the same physiologically including brain, physical and emotional development and these are very much running the messy show in your teens life.
So, grab that glass of wine, settle down in a comfortable chair cos here is what your teen son or daughter wants you to know (kinda)…
Frustratingly importantly, never ever ask them questions if you want an answer. You really have to be more creative and down right furtive than that. It was easy when they were pre-tweens. You could ask how their day had been or what they had eaten at lunch or who they had played with or what they had learned at school but when the tween years arrive, those innocent connection questions just don’t wash any more. Both girl and boy teens will volunteer information about their lives if and when they are engaged in doing something else and you are too. So when you are driving and they are a passenger often works a treat if you talk about your day and frustrations or challenges. For boys, not facing them but sitting beside them and being engaged in an activity can work too. Give it a try and see what works for your particular teen.
Remember how you felt as a teen – if you dare. Peer pressure, conflict with parents, romantic angst, friendship fallouts, homework, being told what to do by every adult in your life and every other adult, acne, greasy hair, social awkwardness, stuff going on with your body you don’t understand and can’t control…yikes! And all those hormones and emotions and strange, unfamiliar feelings. Just putting yourself in their shoes and remembering how it was should be enough to allow you to empathise and relax your adult superior judgement somewhat.
Stop trying to fix their stuff for them, count to ten, breathe and let them find their own solutions (even if you don’t like them). When you focus on what’s “wrong”, even if your intentions are well meaning, it can make them feel that something is wrong with them. If it’s not dangerous, life threatening or a legal or safety issue, step back and offer a comment of support rather than a fix. Something like; “I’m sorry you’re going through this at this time. Is there anything I can do to support you?” may open the lines of communication and give you an opportunity to talk, to tell them you have confidence in them and their ability to manage their own life whilst affirming that you are always there if they need you.
They make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. A lot a lot of mistakes. But don’t need constantly reminding of them. When they have accepted the consequences; it’s over. So let it drop and don’t rub their noses in it. If they make another mistake along the same lines, stick to the consequences and above all else, stay objective. Reminding them of past mistakes will not help them grow and learn or give them the confidence to explore which is exactly what they are supposed to. Your job is to allow them to do this whilst providing the safety net and the support.
Say no and explain why cos they need you to set meaningful boundaries and limits that they can test. That is also part of the transition from childhood to adulthood and you are not damaging your teen by doing so. A teen without parent-defined boundaries is like an employee in a company without a clearly defined job description and role. Teens are anxious without parameters or family rules and whilst some can be negotiated those that revolve around safety must be parent led.
Their friends matter. A lot. From about the age of 11 kids want to spend more time with their friends than with you and this greatly increases peer influence. They want you to accept and understand just how mightily important to them their friends are. What’s more, they want you to like their friends too and take an interest in them. They want you to listen to them praising their friends and they want to know you genuinely understand just how important their friends are so put the glass of wine down and tune in and listen.
They are scared cos they have no idea who they are yet and they are experimenting with needing you less. They have no idea how they fit into the world but they know they need to discover this for themselves and jeepers creepers that’s scary. As parents, you can show them you believe in them by accepting their confusing emotional swings and boundary-pushing. Remain calm when they “test” your love for them. Stand beside them when they get the jitters and sway from wanting hugs and cuddles to wanting to go out late with friends. It’s all Okay and the fear is more manageable when a teen has a parent they can truly rely on to be there no matter what.
They want your understanding and your support for their dreams. Being understood feels different to being judged and teens want to be understood. Encouraging them to express themselves without worrying about judgement will help a teen open up and talk honestly about what is going on in their world. Feeling they will be punished if they are honest won’t make a teen comfortable sharing information with you; they will shut down and shut up. Their dreams and goals are important to them. Parents who provide opportunities for independence monitor where their teens are and what they are doing and provide a warm supportive relationship to allow their teens to develop and nurture aspirations for their future. They will know you care about what they want and not what you want for them. Things can change so just stay open and listen.
They want you to be honest with them. Watch out! They sense when you are uncertain. If they ask for something you really aren’t sure about it’s OK to say so. Teens don’t expect you to have all the answers straight away. They also know exactly what’s going on at home. So if you, as a couple are having relationship problems, health problems or financial problems the best policy is, to be honest with them. They are not little kids anymore and really do appreciate your honesty.
Teens don’t sleep lots cos they’re lazy. Their body clock is very different to yours and accounts for why they come alive in the afternoon and can stay awake all night but wander around like lifeless zombies in the morning. You love them really so just let them sleep later when they possibly can.
Ohhhhhh and whilst I have your attention, never, ever forget they love you and despite rocky times, they will be back full of appreciation for all the values you taught them and everything you did for them so just hang on tightly to the end of the rope, pour another glass of wine and relax.
So there we go, Ten things your teen wants you to know…who knew?!?