Parenting teenagers can be a real dilemma, and a struggle at times. Supporting teenagers can feel like a puzzle. Here are some simple ideas to consider.
I am always gathering hints and tips from others to help me in my parenting. Now my children are older, and moving into their secondary school years it feels like the sands are shifting again, and the support and guidance which worked when they were younger are not necessarily working for me now.
And sometimes, the simplest of things make the biggest amount of sense to me, and things we do instinctively as a parent.
Who, when their children were little, used to spend time with their children in the morning when they have first woken up, and then time in the evening, sitting with them as they settle into sleep, reading stories and helping them wind down?
Now, (and be honest here) who spends less time doing this with our children as they are older, now at secondary, and often take themselves off to bed for their own bedtime routine, where you are seen as surplus to requirements?
I will fully admit to this one.
I have highlighted the above just so I can identify something.
I was talking to a friend the other day, and she told me she had read that there are three points in the day which are ideal times to connect with our children.
is in the morning, when they have just woken up, adjusting their brains to the expectations of the day. It’s a time when we are all just coming round from (hopefully) a deep, restorative sleep. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel a bit anxious about the expectations of the day. Believe it or not, just having you come in and take a moment to say good morning will help them feel safe, and supporting, no matter what is running through their mind.
Now I know that there is all likelihood that they will be fast asleep and refusing to get up, and those congenial utterings of good morning could turn into roars of ‘get up now!’ But, taking that moment to connect at this time in the morning can often set the pace of the day.
The second is when they get home from school. They may be less inclined maybe to divulge the details of their day, maybe they don’t want to talk about it, but your physical presence is a reassurance in their world. Often we struggle to put feelings into words, and this can exactly the same for them. It can be frustrating not to ‘know’ exactly what is going on in their heads and particularly ‘how’ they are feeling. I am the worst one for this as my 13 year old son get perpetually frustrated by the repeated ‘are you okay’s’ being asked of him!
However, your physical presence can make a massive difference in their world, and just taking this moment, even if they disappear shortly after, can really help them feel reassured (no matter how old or independent they are).
And the third is at bedtime, when the brain is settling down to sleep, to process all those thoughts, experiences and emotions which have been present throughout the day, to wake up the next day with a clearer mind. it is the time when those worries and feelings may be at their most prevalent, just like for us when we start turning things round and round in our mind as soon as the lights go out.
Having that moment to say goodnight, and be there as a listening ear if required can ensure that, if the offload is needed, you are there. It can also mean that you are establishing a good sleep routine, even if your teenager is not yet ready to go to sleep, part of which means keep the phone out of the bedroom at night. See my blog on exactly why here.
All these times made logical sense to me, times when our children, however old they are may be more inclined to be more open if they need to be or just appreciate us ‘being there’.
The information they share may not be what we expect, but it is important to them, and may give an indication about their thoughts, and feelings in that moment. You may already be doing this instinctively, or carrying on their routines from younger years. I know, for me it was helpful to have this reminder and I now make a conscious effort to connect in these ways with my emerging teens.
I understand it can be hard when we are worrying about our children, particularly when they are older, and whether they are okay. But setting up these connection points in the day, where practical can make a a massive difference. Yes they are older, and yes they can be left alone and be more independent. But they still need us to navigate this pathway called life, even if they don’t realise it.
Sometimes it’s connection, not communication which makes the biggest difference in relieving anxiety, and uncertainty from a teenagers life, and we can take the lead in that.