Being a teenager’s parent requires as many survival skills as being a teenager. Swept away by a number of changes, teens stride toward adulthood without a full sense of what that really means. Remember your own trek through adolescence, and you may recognize some of the needs that underline your teen's changing behavior. The clothes, hair styles, music and slang may change from generation to generation, but the trials of this transition stay the same.
You may feel as if you and your teen speak different languages. In some respects, your teen may work towards that goal. Teens' quests for independence lead them in search of ways to differentiate themselves from their parents, demonstrating their growing maturity in different ways. From the texting "code" you see on her smartphone to the slang she uses in conversation, she strives to build her own world in which your supervision—and your advice—becomes unnecessary.
Learn the secret language of your adolescent's world so you can do your best to keep her safe from threats, but avoid falling into the trap of attempting to sound like her. Imagine how silly she would feel speaking the slang of your youth and you can visualize the effect of trying to use her language.
Teens need some forms of privacy as a measure of parental trust. That doesn't mean you provide unlimited, unmonitored access to everything on the Internet. Place the computer on which your teen does homework, browses websites and exchanges computer-based email in a public area of your home so you can ensure that she doesn't venture into unsafe virtual places. Ask her to shut off her smartphone and tablet device at a specific hour and leave it off until the morning. Make your own technology-related behavior consistent with the rules you ask her to follow. If texting dominates your time at the dinner table and your phone calls keep you from conversation, you send messages that contradict the rules you try to enforce.
Teens experiment with how they look as part of their attempts to redesign who they are. Banning temporary "modifications" such as hair styles, nail polish and hair colors can prompt changes that are more drastic. Instead of judging the styles she wears, ask her about her look and do your own online research to understand the cultural references that inspire it. You may find that a specific style disappears more quickly when you compliment her on her overall appearance but note that you don't care for the hairdo than when you treat it as a serious, permanent alteration. If she strays across the line into rule-breaking territory, don't take "I hate you" as a personal affront, when it actually translates to "I hate losing privileges."
Forcing your teen into shared activities, even activities she enjoys, may leave her feeling as if you want to smother her attempts at independence.Instead, find ways to share experiences you both enjoy without challenging her growing independence. If she refuses to sit with you in a movie theater, screen the film at home on your HDTV and home theater system when it becomes available on pay-per-view services or Blu-ray Disc. If she declares an undying love for a particular musical group, research the band's repertoire and invite her to share her favorite tunes from her media player to your home theater system. You don't have to pretend to like everything she likes; that might strike her as insincerity. Your evident interest gives her an opportunity to explain or teach you the differences among styles of music.
Photo Credits: Shauna Hundeby/Demand Media
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