Smart Parenting: Special Needs of Teens (page 2)
There are three essential values that you need to teach your children before they reach age twelve:
- A good work ethic
- Structured school routines
- Respect for authority
Establishing these values and habits is easier said than done. I do not want to give you the impression that any major parenting task occurs without frustration, seemingly endless repeated efforts with longdelayed tangible results, and sleepless nights. Parenting is hard, and it gets harder and requires more creativity during the teen years.
Difficult though it may be, if you do not accomplish these tasks by the time your child reaches his teen years, it might become more difficult to guide him away from trouble—but it is not impossible. The key is communicating. Talk to your teen about everything, even if it appears as though he is not paying attention. The more you talk with your teen, offer your opinion, and avoid peppering him with questions, the more he will talk to you.
The Importance of Cooperative Co-Parenting
The teenage years are the time where children naturally question authority and mistrust adults. With good parenting and open lines of communication, parentchild bonds can be strong enough to overcome those difficulties. Consider the teen who has grown up in an atmosphere of hatred, criticism of one parent by the other parent, uncontrolled anger and hostility, indifference, lack of empathy, and failure to offer forgiveness. That is a long list of negative attributes, but it is these attributes that form and foster conflict between fighting parents. Your children often have no choice but to follow the example you set. How will you overcome your teenager's perception of "do as I say, not as I do" if you tune out the co-parent, refuse to communicate when you are angry, and behave selfishly and without regard for anyone else's feelings? These are the very things we recoil at seeing in our teens. They are the most obnoxious, inelegant aspects of teen life that evaporate even the deepest stores of patience. Yet fighting co-parents demonstrate these behaviors on a daily basis. It is difficult enough to positively influence teenagers when we are not demonstrating the very behavior we seek to eliminate or reduce in them.
Helpful Tips for Co-Parenting Teens
Here are some other suggestions for co-parents who are trying to create fewer problems in their teens.
- Work with your co-parent to keep track of your teen. Teens will often let you think they are with the co-parent instead of out partying with their friends. If you communicate with the co-parent, this is one slick move you can nip in the bud.
- Offer to host. Whenever you can, allow your teen to hang around with friends at your home, where you can keep track of potential troublemakers and see who is influencing your child.
- Know that your teen will be supervised when she goes out. Do not be so quick to permit your teen to disappear to a friend's house for a few days unless you know for sure what kind of supervision there is there. If you have been a single parent for a long time, you can get used to your children not being around for periods of time. You will also welcome a break in your parenting chores and an opportunity to socialize or get things done. But letting your child hang out at a friend's house is not like letting her go to the co-parent's for visitation. Stay on top of the details and check up on your kid.
- Encourage your child to maintain a relationship with your co-parent. Teens can easily lose track of their relationship with their mother or father. Kids distancing themselves from their parents can happen at any age, but it is particularly problematic during the teen years, when hormones and dramatic thinking can rule their behavior. If your teen decides to cut off his relationship with your co-parent, you must really challenge yourself to push for a reconciliation unless circumstances are extreme. When children align themselves with one parent and reject the other, it can be comforting and validating for the parent the child becomes closer to, but that does not necessarily make it better or healthier for the teen.
Take the case of a father whose teenaged daughter decided never to speak with him again after it was leaked to her that the reason for the divorce was because he was having an affair. While this might be cause for the mother not having a relationship with the child's father, is it a justifiable reason for the daughter not to have one?
One of my observations of children who are going through high-conflict divorces is that they see parents disavowing one another and splitting off from one another on bad terms. This can present a model or example for that behavior. Generally speaking, it is better to have a relationship with an imperfect parent than to have no relationship at all.
While it is true that teens are strongly influenced by their peers, parental influence doesn't evaporate. Work hard to keep lines of communication open. They are listening, even when they don't seem to be.
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