The trials and tribulations of being a parent of a teen are regularly covered in the media. The message is the generally the same -- it's hard and getting harder. Whether it's college application time, dealing with accidents, drug addiction, or news of a suicide without warning signs -- it's all incredibly sad and difficult.
In her book All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior argues that changes in the last 50 years have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers. Children today are sheltered for long stretches of time and require much more schooling to succeed. This results in far more stress and conflict than in the past.
As the CEO of TeenLife, I do my best to promote positive teenage behavior and independence. The key is believing in teens and making sure that they know they are loved, even while letting them go. Here are my suggestions for increasing the joy and reducing the challenge in raising productive teens.
How to Promote Positive Teenage Behavior and Independence
1. Spend quality time together as a family. Go out to dinner. Plan an excursion. Play board games. Observe holidays with relatives or friends. Participation should be non-negotiable.
2. Agree to turn off screens at the same time so that everyone is giving each other their full attention.
3. Establish rules and consequences. Teens need to know what you expect of them and where you stand on certain issues. Be consistent.
4. Encourage your children to engage in extracurricular activities in and outside of school that they truly enjoy.
5. Summers are great opportunities to travel, perfect a language, and learn new skills. Send your teens to overnight summer programs that specialize in delivering unique content and experiences.
[Search for valuable summer programs.]
6. Seek expert help when needed. Your child may struggle much less with a tutor. Changing schools can do wonders if your teen has a learning style that is different than what is offered.
[Seeking help form an independent counselor or advisor? Search here.]
7. Encourage your teen to seek employment, whether helping out a neighbor with baby-sitting or household chores or getting a job as a lifeguard or counselor. Tell them to ask parents of friends for advice or suggestions. Service industry jobs teach teens how to communicate with people of all ages - something that will benefit them enormously in the workplace.
8. Encourage your teen to volunteer regularly -- with you, with friends, or on their own. These experiences not only build empathy, they also provide skills and references that can lead to paid employment.
[Find a volunteer opportunity near you.]
There is no question that the teen years can be difficult. Try to stay positive and remember that maturity will take care of most issues. The key is helping teens feel good about themselves, strengthen values, and develop confidence that will benefit them in college, at work, and in their personal lives.