Parents Matter to Teens!
As a parent, I matter more to my child than anyone else. (Even if she’s not exactly showering me with love and affection after getting home from school.) My child is 12 — a tween – and there are some days when I wonder whether she cares to hear a word I’ve said. But I know that when those days occur, I must remind myself that I am important! Too often, I hear parents of tweens or teens belittle the importance of the role they play in their children’s lives at this stage of development.
Parents are key in making sure teens stay safe and helping them learn to build a future for themselves. So, on days when you are unsure, remember these four very important ways we matter:
1) Teach Society’s Rules and Laws
As toddlers, we teach our children to share, not to hit or bite others, to take turns and so much more. As kids move into adolescence, they count on us to teach them about society’s rules. Whether it’s learning manners, helping them decide how to present themselves at a job interview, or teaching them the rules and laws of the road, there is plenty they still expect to learn from us.
2) Model Good Behavior
Whether we like it or not, our children compare themselves to us. As they move into adolescence they also compare themselves to their peers. But they never stop wondering what it means to be grown. We need to let them witness a model of a happy, healthy adult, who cares about doing the right thing and being good to others. When they see what all of that looks like, it’s easier for them to picture what their adulthood may be like. Children are actually most secure knowing we are happy and well. So, let them know what goes into becoming a healthy, responsible adult.
3) Set Important Boundaries
When it comes to safety, teens rely on their parents to establish protective boundaries. Adolescence is a time when teens must take some chances. They do so most effectively when they are able to push limits within boundaries that have been clearly set by parents. We provide the rules that keep them safe. We protect them. But we also realize there are times when we must be flexible and allow them to take on more responsibility when they’ve proven themselves.
4) Encourage Connections
We can influence who our tweens and teens may make connections with. Let them take it from there. The school swim team, chess team, robotics, Boy or Girl Scouts, drama, art classes, religious groups, it doesn’t matter — if they show interest, we should support our teens’ involvement in activities. Once they’ve made friends, we can encourage and nurture the relationships that appear healthiest. It’s generally a bad idea to try and choose your teen’s friends. First, it’s not possible. Second, there’s a good chance they’ll see what you’re up to. They’ll resent your intrusion and may see the peers you don’t like as “forbidden fruit.” This can make those peers seem more attractive and your intentions backfire. We can also teach other important skills to our youth so they can handle peer pressure. And let’s not forget healthy connections with other adults. We want our children to have role models both within and outside our homes.
Most children want to please their parents. They are eager to meet parental expectations. Let’s give them something wonderful to strive towards. And let’s never lose sight of how much we matter.