Parenting a teenager can be hard. It’s the time they begin coming into their own and develop very distinct, unique personalities. Logic and reasoning take centre-stage and their likes, dislikes and wants become stronger. For parents, this period can seem very overwhelming, as the child who used to listen to every word you say suddenly becomes an individual with their own thoughts and ideologies.
Navigating this sensitive time can be tough, but experience states that simply being mindful can go a long way in parenting your teenager.
So, as we step into 2024, Smita Bansal, actor and mom-influencer who shares her expertise on raising teenage daughters on coto, a social community platform led by women, shares some things that helped her bond with her teenage daughters, and they might help navigate this challenging, yet fulfilling phase in your lives, too:
1. Gain their trust: As teenagers, children want to be heard and have their emotions validated. Provide them with a safe space to open up to you. Lend them a sympathetic ear, do not interrupt when they speak and ensure that their conversations with you are confidential should they choose to not discuss their feelings with anyone else.
2. Spend time with them, especially post-school: As they grow, teenagers can get slightly detached and reserved. So, try to spend as much time with them as possible. If you work from home or are a stay-at-home parent, spend an hour or two after school discussing their day. This will help you identify if there’s anything worrisome happening in their life (bullying, heartbreaks and the like).
If you have open conversations with them, chances are that they will confide in you. If you work from the office, create an evening or a nightly routine to do fun activities like playing a game or watching a movie together. Use this time to discuss their day and share instances from your teenage years so that they understand that you, too, are human and have had similar experiences.
3. Go on trips with them: Travelling strengthens bonds, and it’ll probably help them see you as a friend/confidante rather than a parent. So, whenever possible, plan a trip together in a way that it includes both your favourite activities – be it trekking, exploring historical places or visiting temples. This way, not only will they have fun but learn to adjust and adapt to situations.
4. Focus on the things that matter: As parents, it’s easy for us to get irked about things like hairstyles and outfit choices, while these may be a way for your teen to express themselves better. But eventually, it’s their personality and skills that matter more, so focus our energy on helping them develop those. Sure, advise them on how to present themselves keeping certain dress codes in mind, but choose the things that you want to focus on to help them in life.
5. Be tough, but not harsh: When children are younger, it’s easier to tell them what to do and what not to do, but as they grow into teenagers, they tend to get more rebellious. So, it’s important for you to understand where to be firm with them and when to give them some leeway. It could be simple things like them choosing a certain subject or something more serious like them trying alcohol, but set ground rules from the start and in case they don’t stick to them, give them logic and reasoning instead of scoldings. This way, their trust in you will not fade away.